Imágenes de páginas

works whence they are afterwards to derive instruction and salvation. It is not even enough to train up a child to find delight in profitable reading, unless, for the appetite thus created, we supply him in after life with wholesome and sufficient aliment. Nor is it enough, lastly, that the Bible alone should be offered to his perusal and meditation, unless, in an age fruitful of error and false interpretation, some farther helps are supplied to enable him to understand and profit by those Sacred Oracles.

It is, then, as a tract society, as furnishing at easy rates and in sufficient variety the most popular works of our best English divines, and, more recently, and for the purpose of founding parochial libraries, many other popular works well calculated not only for the rational instruction, but the rational amusement of the lower and middling classes ; it is as labouring diligently and successfully to counteract the dark machinations of infidelity and disaffection, and as rendering mankind safe from such arts by furnishing them with the means of appreciating their weakness, that the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge stands without a rival. It is thus that she completes her own system of instruction and utility, that she promotes the success of her mission by reforming her fellow Christians at home, that she makes her schools effectual to the end of Christian education by furnishing books in which Christian principles are taught, and that she forwards and secures the

triumphs of her Bibles, by answering the objections of infidelity, by illustrating the abstruser doctrines of the Sacred Volume, and by enforcing and persuading, in ten thousand different forms, the profession and practice of those principles and duties on which there is, fortunately, but little controversy among believers.

And thus, too, it is that, while she herself needs help from no other religious institution, she supplies the deficiencies and promotes the success of all. It is thus that every mission, conducted on the principles of genuine Christianity, every school where Christianity is not excluded as a part of education, and every society which has for its object the dissemination of God's word, derives efficacy from her labours, and has reason to wish her

good luck in the name of the Lord,” as an institution which renders perfect what they have begun, and extends to a greater degree of knowledge, and applies to a fuller detail of practice, and informs to a more excellent faith, and subdues to a more systematic obedience, and ripens, lastly, to a greater intensity of holiness here, and everlasting happiness hereafter, those outlines of blessedness to which only they have attained.

Nor, in the description which I have given of the manner in which the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge contributes to forward and complete the benevolent views of all other religious institutions, can I consent to confine her claims to


patronage and favour exclusively to the members of our national establishment. Her practice has in no respect been narrow or sectarian. Devoted as her members conscientiously are to the doctrine and discipline of the English Church, and to the apostolical succession of bishops, priests, and deacons, she has not hesitated to avail herself of the labours of Lutheran missionaries, and in her list of publications the names may be found, not only of foreign presbyterian divines, but of some among the most eminent English dissenters. And if any stranger to our Church conceives of us as exclusively and intolerantly labouring, not for the extension and triumph of Gospel truth, but for the advantage of a particular hierarchy, let me implore him, without prejudice, to examine some of those volumes which excite his jealousy. Let him try our doctrines by the test of Scripture; let him weigh our prayers in the balance of meditation and charity, and, if he does not join our communion, I am convinced he will think more favourably of our principles and practice, and discover that we too are engaged with less clamour, perhaps, and with more discretion, but with equal earnestness, and a no less glowing love, in the same great cause, which, I willingly bear him witness, the conscientious dissenter is endeavouring to forward.

But to the sincere members of the Church of England, to those whom I now behold around me, and who regard her, with reason, as one of the

purest systems of Christian government now on earth, and one of the most efficient agents of Christian instruction which the world has yet witnessed, who rejoice in her permanence, and are sensibly affected by her dangers; to them need I say any thing in recommendation of a society which has, for more than a century, been universally recognised as her firmest bulwark, and on the continuance and activity of which, it must, humanly speaking, depend whether she is to sink, first, into comparative uselessness, and afterwards, into utter and unpitied ruin; or whether she is still to flourish in the candlestick where her God hath placed her, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of our spiritual Israel?

Ye that love these ancient and venerable forms of devotion which instruct and improve, while they awe and affect us, give your aid, that the poor man also may read and possess his Common Prayer. Ye that honour the sacraments of Christ, help us to make known their meaning and necessity to those who now shrink back from the Altar in ignorant alarm. Ye that fear the sin of schism, or are appalled by the muttered thunders of infidelity, be sure that there is balm in Gilead, if the valuable specifics which our society offers are brought within the reach of the deluded victim of doubt or impiety; and above all, let it be seen by the course of your own lives, that you are really attached to the religion which you profess, the forms of devotion

which you recommend to others, and that the system of faith and practice which you prescribe to your poorer neighbour, is that which is your own guide on earth, and your comfort in the hour of dissolution.

« AnteriorContinuar »