« PreviousContinue »
God, bringing salvation to all men, had appeared,"* defines it to be," that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world."+
Although this is the most important lesson there can be addressed to the consciences of any, whatever may be their ages or their conditions; yet it comes the most seasonably before the minds of persons in early life: and of this description are the greater number of those who have just now dedicated themselves to God in the ordinance of the occasion.
My young friends; we might as soon believe, that God suffers us, without reserve, to "walk in the ways of our own hearts and the sight of our own eyes," from the beginning to the end of life; as that he has dispensed with the obedience of our early years: so much the most favourable to the establishing of habit of any sort; and the innocency and the usefulness of which have so near a relation to the tranquillity and the consolations of age. If indeed there were necessarily brought the cloud of gloom over the mind, with the objects presented to it by religion; it might seem inconsistent with the characteristick cheerfulness of youth. But far from this, religion gives the only solid ground for an immortal mind to rest on: she opens to it satisfactions not otherwise to be obtained: and she is the only safe directory of the conduct; which, under her bright influence, becomes a path illumined by “a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
The world before you abounds with temptations, varying according to your different stations and dispositions: But here is that which will carry you triumphantly through every difficulty and danger; and which will not merely protect your characters from any just reproaches of the world, but also prevent the reproaches of your own hearts.
However unclouded the morning of your day, you cannot be sure, that it will not be overcast before the
Titus ii. 11.
† Verse 12.
noon of life. All the outward blessings which you enjoy, are at the mercy of unforeseen events; and should they be continued to you, yet there may be a want of health or of spirits for the enjoyment of them. Even in apparent friendships, there may be faithlessness: and if it should be otherwise; yet by the time you shall have reached the middle stage of life, the year will seldom close, without finding you bereaved, during the course of it, either of some one to whom you were linked by the ties of affection, or at least of some one, who contributed in one way or another to your happiness. But you will find the consolations of religion more substantial and lasting. If they cannot shield you from misfortune, they can support you under it: and after having been the monitor of your youth, and the counsellor of your riper years, they will go with you to grey hairs, and be your comforter under the infirmities of old age. What is most of all, they will extend your prospect beyond the present life of uncertainty and sorrow; giving you even here, an interest in that better life of immortal happiness and glory, which will be the sure reward of your persevering piety and obedience.
Motives to this Lecture.-Article XIX. Article XXIIIArticle XXXIV. Article XXXVI.-The Ordinal.--Divine Institution.-Independence on foreign Jurisdiction. Episcopacy.--Scripture.-Primitive Church.-Question of Necessity Advantage.
IT has been wished by some judicious divines of our Church, that as she has expressed, in her Articles, her sense of the institution of the gospel ministry; something to the same effect had been introduced by her, into her Catechism. Without entering on the question, of the expediency of such an addition of matter to this instrument, a confessedly desirable property of which is brevity; it will be pertinent to remark, that there is clearly recognized in it the kindred subject of the divine institution of the Christian Church; which cannot be from God, if yet the ministry, by which he carried his contemplated object into effect, were of man. The existence of such a Church, with the title of "Catholick," to express its extension over the world, has been thought worthy of a place in the short formula of the Apostle's Creed: And when we are said to be made by baptism-" Members of Christ;" there is manifestly a reference to the figure, by which St. Paul has described the social mass of professing Christians, in the twelfth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, and elsewhere. Accordingly, in the answer in the Catechism here referred to, although an all important spiritual benefit is comprehended; yet it is not without a regard to the membership of an outward and visible so
ciety. Further; the same sentiment enters into whatever is said concerning the sacraments: One of which is initiatory to that body; while the other is the act, in which they the most emphatically exhi bit the tie of their association.
At our introduction, by that former ordinance, to the benefits of the Christian dispensation; there was put up in our behalf the petition to the throne of grace, that our reception into the Church of Christ might have a spiritual benefit, similar to the temporal benefit accompanying the Ark, which saved Noah and his family from perishing by
It has been intimated already, that if we are to conceive so highly of the character of the Church of Christ; a proportionate estimation must be due to the ministry, by which the Church was insti-: tuted; and by which, transmitted in succession, it is continued to the present time. And the religious use of the sentiment, is well expressed in that Collect, in which we pray to God, that "as he has built the Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone;" he would "grant to us, so to be joined together in unity of spirit, by their doctrine, that we may be made a holy temple, acceptable to him, through Jesus Christ."*
It is my design, to state and to explain what our Church has delivered on the present subject; with the view of afterwards grounding on her decisions some propositions, with their proofs.
The first document which shall be offered, is part of the nineteenth article-"The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments be duly ministered, according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite for the same." The only use to be here
Collect for St. Simons' and St. Judas day.
made of what has been recited, is the noticing, that it presumes a preaching and an administration of sacraments; and therefore calls for an explanation of the sense of the Church, as to the qualifications of those who are to preach and to administer. Accordingly, there are to be taken into view her provisions, relatively to this subject; which must be presumed to be, in her estimation, agreeable to evangelical order; although to pronounce them essential to it in all points, might be carrying of the matter further than she designed.
However liberal, then, this definition of a Church -and God forbid, that we should wish to narrow it-there is reason to believe, that it sometimes has the mistaken praise, accommodated to the notion of a laxity, which other of her institutions will not suffer us to admit. The place defines the Christian Church at large, under its essential circumstances. More precise ideas of these circumstances, are left to be gathered from other places; although it would be very alien from the spirit which the Church evidently wished to cherish and to mani. fest, on the present subject; were we to torture any place to the expression of a degree of precision, which she appears to have avoided.
Perhaps the abuse of the liberty of our Church here alluded to, has been rendered the easier, by the use of the word "Congregation," to denote the whole body of Christian people throughout the world; the same being applicable to the portion of them, who inhabit any state or district. It could never have entered into the minds of the compilers of the Articles, to encourage every collection of persons, worshipping in a particular house, to set up their assembly as a distinct and independent Church. And yet such an idea is very much countenanced, by the use of the word in question; according to the sense to which modern custom has confined it.
But this notion of a Church is so far from conforming to the definition in the Article, that it speaks