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ide All i aro 174 di posis successors, which will not allow her to fall into any fatal error.
I can hardly believe that a Christian of any persuasion, if desired by one yet unconvinced, to give a historical sketch of Christianity, that so he might ascertain whether an all-wise God had kept guard over it, as a thing dear to Him, and worthy of His wisdom and power, would induce himself to give such a poor and miserable picture of its lot as the system opposed to ours must conceive. He might, indeed, without shame, describe the life of its divine founder; how, in infancy, he suffered cold and poverty, and every privation, and was obliged to fly when his life was sought; how he led a life of obscurity, sorrow, and wretchedness; how he was in the end, mocked and scoffed, and tortured and crucified; for all these sufferings were amply compensated by the glories of his resurrection, and the majesty of his ascension, and the brightness of his present state; and through them all he proved himself the holy and the just one, and for them all, the Lord God hath made him see a long generation, and a fruitful inheritance. But surely he would not dare to attempt a parallel with the history of his spouse the Church, and say how she, indeed, like him, was at first little, and poor, and persecuted, and neglected, and how princes did thirst for her blood, and in part spilt it; and how, too, prophets bore her in their arms, and saints sighed after her full manifestation : but that, as she grew up, she plunged into every excess of wickedness and harlotry, and blood, and clothed herself with all the abominations that ever disgraced idolatrous nations; and that, at last, after ages of such filthiness and abominations, it rose, not indeed like her author, every limb clothed with new suppleness, and vigour, and beauty, and her head crowned with fresh unfading glories, and her youth, as the eagle's, renewed, but rather like the spurious vegetation, said to sprout from the decayed mangroves on the rivers of Africa, as though a few branches had revived with a different life, while the trunk has remained as yet a mass of corruption and
decay. Or rather he would not describe it like one of those very rivers, appearing first as a broad, majestic stream, issuing from a pure untainted source ; sweeping along in increasing strength, bearing down, by the calm power of its steady course, the petty obstacles which nature and man raised in its way; carrying on its waters the arts of peace and happiness from people to people, and establishing a communication between many countries unknown to each other, save through its means; then suddenly swallowed up by the thirsty desert, and changed, for as long space, into brackish marshes and noisome pools, till, from these issues again a small puny stream, which pretends to mark its continuation, by its insignificant current over some confined tracts of the habitable globe.
No, rather he would love to represent it as a noble edifice, richly adorned as befits God's temple, the lustre of whose golden ornaments may have been sometime dimmed by neg. lect, whose decorations may have suffered from mildew and rust, but whose foundations are based on the eternal hills, and may not be shaken by the earthquake or the storm.
And such have we regarded it in all ages, as the great universal Church, towering above all other objects; even so, as in this country, you may see the splendid cathedrals of antiquity majestic among the petty edifices, sacred or profane, which have been built and re-built, and have again crumbled into dust around them; while they look down unaltered and unchanged, as they did of old, forming a striking and beautiful feature wherever they are placed.
And, surely, if we have recourse to the results of experience, we shall easily ascertain, which system of faith is more conformable to God's institution; that, wherein man is left to his own erring judgment without a guide, or the one where the doctrines of Christ are supposed to be preserved in a durable and consistent scheme, by being embodied with outward forms, in the safe keeping of an unfailing and living body. For, if you wish to preserve some precious odour, you expose it not abroad in its pure etherial essence, knowing that thus it
would soon evaporate and paste away; but ye do rather knead it up with something of more earthly mould, which may be unto it, as it were, a body, whence it may long breathe its perfume to all that approach. And just so must it be with a religious constitution ; for hath not experience taught us, at least, how the attempt to spiritualize it to the extreme, depriving it of outward circumstance, and abandoning the principle of authority, must end in its gradual enfeebling and final decay ?
Do we not all know a Church possessed of every material engine of power, that hath in its hands most glorious temples, marvellously designed to be the theatres of boundless influence over countless multitudes ? and such were they once, while now they are all day so empty and waste, as to seem rather the mighty tombs of a departed, than the temple of a living, worship. And how else hath this sad change been wrought ? The religion which built them, in ages past, was one of many sisters, obedient and subject to a common mother. she had ruled by authority, spiritual and ecclesiastical, and her reign had been peaceful and splendid. But a froward spirit arose within her, and in the pride of her heart she exclaimed ; “I need not, that men may honour, and court, and obey me, these badges of authority and rule, which at the same time mark my dependence too; for my own comeliness will be worshipped; I will none of these touching memorials around me, the tombs of martyrs or the rival beauty of saintly images; for what are they to me? or what have I to do with the memory of past days? I scorn the bravery of sumptuous raiment, and the dazzling procession of ministers, and the clouding of their incense, and the brightness of their tapers; I will sit me down alone in the midst of
naked dwelling-place, as a white robed virgin ; and men shall love, and serve, and worship me for my own sake.” And for a season it was done; so long as those lived who remembered the days of her glory, and loved her as a remnant and memorial of what once she was.
But after these, came a generation that knew not those days, men with arms upfolded on their bosoms, and brows
bent in perpetual frownings; and when they came before her, she found that they had learnt rebellion from her example, and from her lips had caught up the words of scorn and infamy, wherewith she had disgraced her mother. And they cast her down, and trampled her in the dust, and did make her eat her very heart for sorrow. Then, indeed, by the arm of power she was once more set up, but only to undergo a crueller and more lingering doom; to see, year after year, her worshippers slinking away, and her temples less frequented, and her many rivals' power exalted, as well as their numbers ever more increased. And even now, are not men dicing over her spoils, and quarrelling how they had best be divided ? do they not speak irreverently of her, and weigh her utility in iron scales, and value in silver pieces, the souls whom she serves ? Is she not treated with contumely by those that call themselves her children? is not her very existence reduced by them to a question of worldly and temporal expediency?
And, when we see the cathedral service shrunk into the choir originally destined for the private daily worship of God's special ministers, or when we find the entire congregation scattered over a small portion of the repaired chancel, while the rest of the edifice is a majestic ruin, as I but lately witnessed, assuredly any one must be more prone to weep than to exult at the change which has taken place, since these stately fabrics were erected. Who can visit that beautiful church beyond the river, so lately restored,* and dwell on the exquisite screen which overshadows the altar, with its numerous niches and delicate traceries, and not feel that the great object to which all these were accessories hath been removed ; that men would not have laboured so, and given their time and ability, only to prepare a standing place for that ordinary table, on which all turn their backs who worship there; but that there was once an altar which men loved and revered, and which it was deemed most honourable to honour. Who can witness the worship as performed in a cathedral, and see so many points yet recalling
* St. Mary's Overbury, or St. Saviour's.
ancient practices, so much effect curtailed of its power by the destruction of the feeling and motive which gave it rise, such a wish, but so manifestly baffled, to fill with religious majesty the mighty edifice, more by the organ's voice than by the emblems of God's presence, or by any accord of feeling thrilling through the hearts of a multitude; and not weep to think how a nation can have been cheated out of the most beautiful and moving parts of its religion, and glory in retaining but its shreds and fragments ?
Assuredly, when I see these things, and still more, when I hear men admiring the English liturgy as a matchless and sublime composition, and not reflecting how it is all taken from ours, which they abolished, -only that what they have retained, and what forms the essential part of their service, is with us but a part inferior and preparatory to a more solemn rite, that their sublime collects, with the epistle and gospel, are amongst us but as an introduction and preface to a sublimer action ; when I see this Church thus treasuring up and preserving from destruction the accessories of our worship, so highly prizing the very frame in which our liturgy is but enclosed, I cannot but look upon her as I would on one whom God's hand hath touched, in whom the light of reason is darkened, though the feelings of the heart have not been searedwho presses to her bosom, and cherishes there, the empty locket which once contained the image of all she loved on earth, and continues to rock the cradle of her departed child !
But if from this scene of inconstancy, mutability, and decay, we turn to look for a contrast, I cannot have much difficulty in finding one. O could I bear you, on the wings of my affections, to that holy city, where all that is Christian and Catholic bears the stamp of unfading immortality! Thither must the Catholic look to find the surest proof, of how effectual, and how universal, is the one principle of faith which animates and directs his religion. There I could show you to demonstration how tenacious the Catholic Church has always been of every doctrine; since she has taken such pains and care to