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themselves so far from agreement that they cannot commune together, nor worship together, but who cannot even walk peaceably by each other's side to heaven. What! Is the Church of Christ confined to this or to that denomination? Is the vineyard of pod circumscribed within the little enclosures which the pride and uncharitableness of men have deformed it withal? Why this bitterness of sectarian spirit? Why is the favorite exercise of Christian zeal found to be the slandering of all who differ from our own standard? Why the bold abuse and the angry invective of brother against brother, and the pharisaic repulse in the heart, if not in the mouth, ' Stand by, for I am holier than thou?' Alas! this is not believing in the Catholic, the Universal Church. Nay, it is, on the contrary, the very sin against which the Apostle so forcibly exhorts us, the judging our brother and the setting at nought our brother, while, for aught we can tell, God may have received him. May the time soon come when the true Catholic spirit of Christian liberality shall enable the members of every denomination to dwell more on the things wherein they agree, and less on those wherein they differ. When the living faith of the Gospel shall be the principal test with all, and the pride of opinion, the wormwood of party, and the animosity of sectarian discord shall be gladly sacrificed to the meek and affectionate spirit of the Gospel.
But still more serious are the questions which arise when we speak of the Catholic Church as holy. Is it true that any of her ministry have learned to depart from the simplicity of the Apostles' days, and aim rather to display the talents of the orator than to feed with the bread of life the Church of God? Is it true that her Bishops seldom 'rebuke, reprove, and exhort with all authority?' Is it true that any of her presbyters square their smooth discourses to the tastes and prejudices of their auditories, and, satisfied with winning admiration, think little about winning souls—that her deacons, once glad to read the Scriptures, and to seek after the poor, sometimes aspire to the task of government, and the palm of elocution—that her officers of the laity, once zealous to be lights and fellow-laborers in the work of God, are sometimes found content with doing nothing, and not unfrequently, by their want of religious consistency, turn into practical mockery all the institutions of the Gospel—that her discipline, once pure and inflexible, before which the majesty of an earthly sceptre was fain to bow, has long since been an odious task which few will dare to praise, and none to perform with impartiality—that her worship is neglected by a large portion of those who attend upon it, and who openly disregard those rules of public injunction which, in a private dwelling, they would blush to violate, and which, in every public place except the church, they scrupulously observe—that her sacraments are avoided by more than one half of her professed friends, and profaned by the worldly, the pleasure-seeking, and the money-loving souk which compose more than half the remainder—that the voice of family prayer is seldom to be heard amongst the dwellings of her people—that the altar of the Lord can find no room in their habitations—that the Word of the Lord rarely issues from their lips—that their children are brought up to know more of every thing'else, than the one thing needful, to seek every thing else, rather than the favor of God, .to strive after every thing else, rather than to enter the strait gate and the narrow way which leadeth to the kingdom of heaven? Above all, is it true that the priests of the Lord are sometimes seen to connive at these abuses, because they know the people love to have it so—that they cry 'peace peace,' when they ought to say, 'there is no peace,' and even when truth compels them to utter a public exhortation somewhat bolder than ordinary, is it true that they feel as if they had taken a liberty, which is far more likely to be censured for its rashness, than applauded for its candor?
These questions, suggested as points of solemn self-examination, for all who stand connected with the interests of the Holy Catholic Church, cannot be otherwise than profitable. To lift our eyes to the high and holy standard of ministerial obligation—to compare with it our manifold infirmities and defects—to recall in imagination the days of primitive devotion, of apostolic government, of unsparing liberality, of generous self-denial—to ask ourselves how much we resemble those men who, for the sake of the Gospel, 'took joyfully the spoiling of their goods,' and with what truth we could say that we are ready to ' suffer the loss of all things and count them less than nothing that we may win Christ and be found in him'—to enquire ef our souls how much of the spirit of the 'noble army of martyrs' burns within them—to interrogate our official conduct in relation to the zeal and fidelity with which we 'feed the Church of God which he has purchased with his own blood'—all this— though it must needs be a humiliating—is surely a most wholesome exercise, calculated, of a truth, to bring us in self-abasement to the foot of the cross, but also calculated, for that very reason, to fill us with the strength which is made perfect in our. weakness, and to keep us more steadfast in the arduous track of duty, for the time to come.
We are not permitted, however, to pause even here, if the whole peril of the Church universal is to be brought to our remembrance. The influence of worldliness, the fear of man which bringeth a snare, the heartless formalistn, the cold indifference or lukewarm support displayed throughout Christendom, towards the faith and institutions of the Gospel—these things—although truly deplorable— are not the only evils to be dreaded in our day. The Spirit of the Reformation, which sought to break the chains of Superstition and restore the Christian world to primitive truth and order, has been followed by the active demon of fanaticism and misrule. The veneration for antiquity which may, perhaps, have led to some degree of error, has been followed by a far more dangerous love of innovation which despises authority and spurns restraint. New lights are kindled to bewilder the eyes of men, new measures are devised to catch attention, new systems of Theology are distracting the minds of the masters in Israel, and the favorite weapons of orthodoxy itself are prepared and tempered by the hands of infidelity. The schools of the Prophets are exposed to the poison of learned scepticism, and the Church is even asked to believe, that she cannot give her ministers the knowledge required for their sacred office, without employing a class of authors, who have labored but too successfully to undermine every distinguishing principle of the Gospel. Surely there never was a time when the sober minded Scriptural Christian, had more reason to 'stand in the ways and see; and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein.' Surely there never was a time when we had greater reason to tremble at the awful account to be rendered by those who are appointed as 'watchmen on the walls of Zion.
But although we see abundant reason for humiliation and fear,—although in comparing the Holy Catholic Church of our age with the Church of primitive antiquity, we are constrained to take up the lamentation of the Prophet, and say,' How is the gold become dim, and the fine gold changed,' yet we would derive encouragement from the promise of our Divine master, and go on with undoubting confidence that there is 'hope in Israel concerning this thing.' Let the dangers and the difficulties which surround us only be an argument for the greater watchfulness and zeal. Let our favored ministry, which possesses the peculiar blessing of the apostolic form and succession, take good heed to be apostolic in spirit, and better and brighter prospects will be granted to us. Through the mercy of the Most High, we shall see Zion arise and shine, in the strength of unity, in the power of faith, and in the 'beauty of holiness.' The Holy Catholic Church shall be believed in heart as well as in profession, and those who are within her pale on earth, may hope to share her happiness in heaven.