Page images

the holy see; and therefore, it will be sufficient to speak of it at the proper time, when I come to treat of that important subject.

But, my brethren, before I conclude, I will briefly draw your attention to a few very simple remarks.

In the first place, I will observe, that if any man will dispassionately look at the constitution of the church-as I endeavoured to describe it to you at our last meeting, and as I have endeavoured to do partly hitherto, though I think, so far as I have gone, satisfactorily to prove to you-he will find it is precisely such as, in the very nature of things, we should expect to find. For, we shall observe, that the system pursued by Divine Providence, in every other case, where it is his intention to mould and to form men for any certain condition, where he intends to prepare their minds for any thing requiring human action, it is always by the principle of authority that he does so. In what way has he constituted the domestic order? Is it not inherently the very principle of nature, that those who have to be instructed, that the child who has to learn, can only do so by a system of subordination naturally instituted ? Is he not placed under the instruction and direction of his parents by the very natural law of his mind, that he may be trained up and prepared for those domestic virtues which it is the intention, primarily, of the domestic order, to instil and to perfect ? Does not experience show us, that if any other system be attempted, the experiment instantly fails? Or, at any rate, never could we expect all men, for instance, of the same country, to be trained to the same moral feeling, the same social order and practice, unless there was a course of discipline to which the mind was subjected, as the means of arriving at that self-command, and the possession of those principles which alone can direct the mind. And is it not so, likewise, in the system followed by Almighty Providence for the preservation of the social order? Who ever heard of any state being held together by any other principle but the tie of subordination and jurisdiction? Can we conceive men enjoying the benefit of social life, can we conceive them acting towards one another by certain fixed rules and principles, united together for the great purposes of social co-operation-be it for peace or be it for war be it for their mutual support in private life, or be it for the more general wants of the state-can we suppose them directly fitted for these ends, oracting properly towards the obtaining of them, except under a system of proper jurisdiction and control, by a steady and fixed law, and not only so, but also by a living authority to apply that law to its proper institution, and to secure it from corruption by the private opinions of men ? And, though it may appear, perhaps, somewhat foreign to the subject, yet I cannot help making a remark, connected with this observation, as to the peculiar nature of our own constitution. It is very singular, that we have a letter from one of the oldest popes

addressed to the sovereign of this kingdom, which even, if we do not allow all the antiquity attributed to it, must be admitted, I suppose, to be anterior to the Conquest, in which he expressly says, that the constitutions or governments of the other nations of Europe, are necessarily less perfect than ours, because they have all been based upon the theological, or, in other words, upon the obligations of heathen codes; but the constitution of England is necessarily most perfect, because its forms have been drawn out and principally received from the Catholic church. It is remarkable, that perhaps there is no country which has such a steady administration of law, in consequence of the admission of that very principle which corresponds to the unwritten code of the church: for, besides the statute law of the kingdom, we have also the common law, that law which depends upon traditional usages, though it is now, indeed, recorded in the decisions of courts, and in other proper and legitimate ways; precisely in the same manner, the church of Christ, besides its written code, now holds in its possession a series of traditional laws-laws, handed down, as it were, from age to agewritten, indeed, in the works of those who have constructed her constitution, and who have proved and demonstrated every part of her system; but still differing from Scripture precisely in the same way, as the common from the statute law of the realm, though both of them have their inberent principle precisely in the same authority, in the same fountain and source, the one of sacred and ecclesiastical, and the other of social jurisdiction.

This, therefore, my brethren, may sufficiently show, how far from unreasonable our system is, and how remote from any thing like an approach to tyranny or oppression, or the undeserved constraint of man's mind, which is so often attributed to it. I have contented myself with merely showing you, that it is consistent with sound reason; that it is in itself an institution consistent in all its parts; harmonizing beautifully in its farthest extremes ; ascending in its demonstration from the most simple principles. I have shown you, that it is not merely a human invention, but that it is truly a work worthy of God; and I have endeavoured to prove to you, that it is truly a work established by God. You might as well, for instance, suppose, that the tree which has been planted in the garden, and which, year after year, age after age, produces new branches, and new leaves, and fresh flowers, which has struck its roots deep and wide in the earth-you might as well suppose, that it was merely human, something made by the hands of man; that it was something which was placed here, and which was continually nourished by man's agency, as to suppose that the system, such as I have described, having its complicated roots in the whole fabric and structure of the old law, standing erect in the midst of the new, and producing, day after day, the most beautiful foliage to shelter those who take refuge under

its spreading branches-like the vine described by the prophet, sending forth her branches to the uttermost bounds of the earth, and giving forth the most blessed fruits, as I shall hereafter show you, is of human origin. For, it will be one part of my task hereafter, to examine in what communion it is, that the promise of being able to propagate the faith, has been preserved. I will show where it is alone that the power to convert infidels to the faith of Christ has been, by the experience, not only of past times, but of our own days, proved to reside. But all that I beg of you is, my brethren, not merely to content yourselves with reposing under its branches; not merely to content yourselves with admiring this grain of mustard-seed, which has grown, and has now come to be the largest of trees, under whose boughs all the birds of the air take shelter ; but also diligently to study the evidences you there receive, to consider it as a place you should make a tabernacle, not merely for yourselves, but also for others, bringing them also, as much as you can, to enjoy the blessings there to be received ; that it may become to all a place of which all may one day say, that “ It was good for them to be here”-a blessing which I pray God to grant you all.


[blocks in formation]

Know how thau oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

Had you, my brethren, seen the beautiful and perfect design of some sumptuous and costly building, coming from the hands of one, all whose works must be perfection, and who had the power to accomplish whatever he had designed; and did you know that this was to be put into the bands of zealous, and willing, and competent workmen, that so it should be brought into execution, I am sure you would consider it superfluous to inquire, whether the command had been fulfilled, and whether that which was so beautiful in its preparation, was not transcendently so, and endowed with ten-fold perfection when brought into completion.

Now, such precisely is the condition in which we are placed with our present inquiry. I have endeavoured, by the simplest process possible, to trace out to you, from the beginning, the plan which Divine Providence had manifestly laid down for the communication of his truths to mankind, and for their inviolable preservation among them. I endea. voured-after having, in my preliminary discourse explained to you the different systems adopted by us and by others regarding the foundation or rule of divine truth, after having shown you the complicated diffi. culties which arise intrinsically from the nature of the one, and the beautiful and simple harmony which seemed to run throughout the other-I then endeavoured, commencing with the very first and less

« PreviousContinue »