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now : so far from believing that Christ's Presence is with their own communion as such, they consider this ascription of grace to a corporate body, this belief that ordination is a Divine act and by an Apostolical succession, this doctrine of a priesthood under the Gospel, for all these are but aspects of one and the same great truth ; alas ! they consider it the beginning of all error and evil in religion, and make it accordingly a first principle, the principle of their own religious existence, the essence of their faith, to deny it. Accordingly, they take no religious account whatever of the bodies to which they happen to belong, nor of the rites and ordinances which they use, except as a matter of order, more commonly of taste and liking. They are, it is most certain, indifferent to their particular communion, as a communion ; eager to exalt themselves above it; sensitive of the appearance of subjection to it; proud of insubordination ; jealous of forms and orjinances; destitute of any definite creed; willing to fraternize with any who will but profess a like disbelief of the doctrine of a Church ; ready to change, because it is really no change, whenever it occurs to them, and is open to them; nay, familiar in many cases to the use of two or three religious communions at once. Surely they may be called upon to change to the Church, who by their very principle may change about to any thing else ; surely they have not found, who profess to be ever seeking ; surely they may be taught something new, who have nothing old, or rather, nothing to lose at all; surely they may be made loyal to the Church, who are not the willing servants, or the loyal subjects, or the dear children of any other sovereign and parent. This is the great distinction between our Church and all these bodies round about her. A great multitude of our people, to say the least, feel and know that the Church in herself, and considered as a Church, is a great blessing. They are convinced that Christ is in her; that she is here that favoured spiritual body which is present in many places, one and the same all over the earth, perfect and entire here and there and everywhere, as if she were nowhere else, and called in Scripture, “the Bride, the Lamb's wife.” They do not merely dislike other forms of worship, bit they love and revere hers. They are witnesses to themselves, yes, and to each other, that Christ is in them of a truth. But it ig seldom indeed that a member of a seceding body is zealous for that body; he is zealous for what he considers the Gospel, that is, at the utmost for what he would call a doctrine,-though that means, if we may so speak, his own particular doctrine, which is, properly speaking, no doctrine at all, in any accurate sense of the word, but an opinion, his own private opinion; he is zealous for what he thinks to be the message which Christ brought from heaven, whatever it be, and that, whether any other person in the whole world agrees with him or not, not for that communion, external to himself, to which he happens to belong. He has not found Christ in that communion. He confesses that, in his judgment, religion is but a solitary matter; he thinks he has found the truth, but not in his sect or party, but in himself merely; so as to be lodged in himself, and to go with him wherever he goes, whether he stays in it or leaves it. In calling him away then from his particular communion into our own Church, I am calling on him to violate no principle of obedience, no sentiment of reverence or loyalty, for he has none; I am but using his private judgment in behalf of the Church, as he has hitherto used it in opposition to it. In leaving his present sect, he does injury to no dutiful feeling; in leaving it he is leaving nothing valuable; he was of value to it, not it to him. I am calling him to a great idea which it never before entered into his mind to conceive, to a something over and above what he has at present; to what is distinct, for what is vague and confused, to what is real and living, for what is nominal,—to a visible body with invisible privileges,--to God dwelling in very deed upon earth, the King of Saints upon the holy hill of Zion, Him who inhabiteth eternity, abiding invisibly, not in buildings made with hands, but in a chosen company, which He both formed at the first and has continued ever since. This awful and great sight is a new thing to the inquirer in question; he did not know there was such a one any where; we invite him to turn aside and see: but we turn him merely from the wilderness which lies around him, from nothing else. We are not unsettling his mind, we find it unsettled; we are not showing disrespect to his present communion, it has never been reverenced even by himself; his personal religious experience was not built upon and united to its rules and ordinances; ours is to those of our Church. They who call us to quit our Church, must first refute our long experience of her benefits; but he has had no such experience of benefits at all. We have personal tokens, not only that we are in grace, but that this great blessing is given through our sacraments; he not only does not profess the like, but protests against such a profession. In resting then our allegiance to our Church on her private and secret notes, not on her public ones, I am giving no advantage to disputers and heretics of this day in their warfare against her.
However, so much I will grant, and will not grudge it,that if there be persons born in dissent, and filially attached to their own communion, and “ fearing God and working righteousness in it,” in them, we may humbly trust, is fulfilled St. Peter's saying, that, “in every nation," such men are “ accepted with Him." I am far indeed from wishing rudely to disengage such persons from the sect in which they find themselves, if they are zealous for it, little as I may think it part of the true Church. We must not do evil that good may come; sudden changes are in themselves an evil, though they are unavoidable when the truth is preached to many at once, and in the conflict of the Church and the world. St. Paul's conversion, it is true, was sudden; but
then it was miraculous also: yet no one would call miracles the ordinary or the appointed means of Divine teaching. Such persons then as I am speaking of, I would humbly leave in God's hands, to work His blessed will in them; whether to lead them forward through their present creed into a purer one, or, if such be His inscrutable pleasure, to save them, though not through it, yet in it, by a mercy overflowing the bounds of His revealed covenant.*
That time will never come in this world, when the strife of tongues and the alienation of hearts shall cease; but let us at least beseech the Prince of Peace, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; that He would vouchsafe to hide us for a little moment under the shadow of His wings, until this tyranny be overpast, in anticipation of that blessed time when “they shall not hurt nor destroy in all His holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”f
* Nothing that is here said about uncovenanted mercies must be taken to imply that individuals ought to be satisfied in remaining external to the Catholic Church, when they are once convinced of the fact; but mere impressions, impulses, fancies, frames of mind, logical deductions, or the blindness which follows on religious carelessness, may easily be mistaken for convictions. It is a duty, then, to doubt about them, nay, to resist them, and often for a very long time; and under this painful and weary trial, though not under other circumstances, surely the mind may religiously dwell on the thought of God's · extraordinary dispensations of grace, as a relief of its apprehensions,
+ Is. xi. 9.
SERMON X XI V.
ELIJAH THE PROPHET OF THE LATTER DAYS.
1. Kings xix. 11, 12.-“ And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a
great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind : and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake : and after the earthquake a fire ; but the Lord was not in the fire : and after the fire, a still small voice.”
St. James reminds to “take the Prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction and of patience." And he presently adds, “ Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are; and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit."*
Elijah was the foremost, and in one sense the beginning of the Prophets; and, whereas he is so prominent in the Old Testament, he is not less prominent in the New; for he has come to the Church, as if over again, in the person of St. John the Baptist, of whom it was prophesied before
* James v. 10. 17, 18.