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garded as standing upon precisely the same ground as the numerous sects into which protestants are divided ; and every pretext, however trivial, is deemed sufficient to justify a separation from it.
Great circumspection, therefore, is required on the part of the established clergy in the present day, least they should, either by their actions or by their language, appear to countenance these erroneous opinions, and thus add strength to the too prevalent persuasion that it is a matter of comparative indifference whether à man, who has been bred in the church of England, shall adhere or not adhere to its communion. I mean not to censure those who aspire to the praise of candor and liberality ; but I think that a reputation for these qualities ought not to be sought at the risk of weakening the interests of that church, which we have solemnly bound ourselves to support with our most strenuous exertions. In viewing the relative situations of the established church and of the various Protestant Sects in this kingdom, we must never lose sight of this important fact, that our dissenting brethren separated from us. This fact affords a vantage-ground which we must never abandon; since so long as we retain it, we throw upon our adversary the task of proving that his separation was an act of absolute necessity. Until he can substantiate this point, he remains justly chargeable with the sin of schism. It is in vain that he has recourse to the plea which is not unfrequently urged in justification of dissent, that men in the present day have the same right to secede from the Church of England which our forefathers had to break off their connexion with the See of Rome. The founders of our church knew that it was incumbent on them to establish, not merely the reasonableness, but the necessity of their separation ; to show that the only alternative left them was either to quit the church of Rome, or to acquiesce in the perpetuation of those erroneous doctrines by which its teachers had sullied the purity and impaired the integrity of the Christian faith. This task they undertook and successfully accomplished. Before, therefore, our dissenting brethren try to shelter themselves under the example of our venerable reformers, they ought to copy it in all its parts, and begin by proving that the necessity of a secession was in their own case equally imperious. Without wishing to call in question the right of private judgment, it is our duty frequently to remind our hearers that they are morally accountable for the exercise of that right, and that it is not every difference of opinion which will justify a separation from the established church, but a conscientious difference upon points that regard the essentials of religion, and involve fundamental articles, either of faith or practice.
But it is not only by the desire of obtaining a reputation for candour and liberality that we are liable to be betrayed into conduct, that may appear to countenance the erroneous notions respecting schism on which I have now been animadverting. There exists in the minds of many men a persuasion that the advancement of the Church of Christ, as contra-distinguished to the Church of England or any other part of the visible church, should be the great aim of the sincere believer. One effect of this persuasion upon the opinions of those by whom it is adopted is, that agreement in public worship constitutes in their estimation a feeble principle of connexion, in comparison with that complete identity of hearts and affections by which the members of the Mystical Church of Christ are bound together. Where that identity is conceived to exist, all difference with respect to outward religious profession, to points that relate only to the administration of the visible church, is easily overlooked. The persons who are under the influence of the persuasion just described forget, that there are no certain marks by which the members of the Mystical Church of Christ can be distinguished during their residence on earth. They forget too that the very constitution of man's nature requires that he should unite himself to some visible church. It is only by such an union that he can obtain the benefits of social worship, or avail himself of all the means which God has appointed for the communication of his grace. With reference, therefore, to differences of religious profession the minister of the establishment will see, that his surest mode of advancing the interests of the Church of Christ is zealously to enforce the obligation, under which all men are placed, of surrendering their own opinions in matters that cannot be conscientiously deemed of essential moment, and of thus hastening, as far as in them lies, the approach of that time, when the promise of our blessed Lord shall be accomplished, and there shall be, both in appearance and in reality, ' «one fold and one shepherd.”
In the suggestions which I have thought it my duty to offer on this subject, there will, I trust, be found nothing in the slightest degree at variance with that spirit of Christian charity, which ought to influence our whole behaviour towards those who differ from us in a matter so deeply interesting as religion. The circumspection, which I recommend to you, implies no want of respect or kindness for the persons of our dissenting brethren, no blind or illiberal prejudice against their opinions, no unreasonable jealousy of their designs. It implies only a predilection for the Church of England ; a predilection founded upon a careful and dispassionate comparison of its rites and doctrines with those of other churches. So far am I from regarding the want of this predilection as a subject on which a clergyman of the Church of England is
1 John 10-16.
justified in priding himself, that I am at a loss to understand how a man, who does not entertain such a preference, can conscientiously solicit admission into the ministry. ",
One necessary consequence of this well-grounded predilection for the national church will be a punctual conformity to its ritual, a studious adherence to the forms which it prescribes in the cele bration of the offices of religion. On this subject I deem it necessary to offer a few remarks, because there exists in the present day too great a tendency to depreciate all external forms, and to represent a strict adherence to them as wholly unimportant. True it is, that the ceremonies of religion derive all their efficacy from the spiritual temper with which they are performed ; if that be wanting, the mere observance of an established rite must be altogether unavailing. But that man must possess a very imperfect acquaintance with human nature, who conceives that a religious society, comprehending within it numerous individuals, can long subsist without the aid of external forms: and that man must possess a no less imperfect acquaintance with the limits of moral duty, who, having once entered into the ministry, thinks that he is at liberty either to omit or to alter at his own pleasure the forms enjoined by the religious society to which he belongs. To suppose that outward ceremonies contribute little towards the maintenance and diffusion of spiritual religion in the world is to suppose, that the constitution of man's nature has undergone a total change; that he is become altogether independent of his senises ; and that his mind is no longer influenced by association and by sympathy. To suppose that every minister, in the celebration of the offices of religion, is not bound strictly to comply with the prescribed ritual, is to suppose, that it is allowable for individuals to follow their own opinions in opposition to the authority which they are pledged to obey; a supposition so monstrous that it would not be endured for a moment in a question relating to the interests of civil society. But so it is; when religion is concerned, men reason and act upon principles of which, in any other case, they would be themselves the first to discover and expose the pernicious tendency. They are induced to deviate from an established form by the hope of securing some immediate advantage to the cause of religion ; forgetting that no particular advantage can possibly compensate the mischief arising from the transgression of those general laws by the observance of which society is held together : forgetting too that, if every individual were to assume to himself the same liberty, all uniformity of ceremonies must soon be done away, and with it the benefits of social worship be entirely lost.
Far then from regarding an adherence to established forms as a matter of trivial importance, the minister of the church of England
will perceive that it is closely connected with the promotion of spiritual religion ; and will not only abstain from making any unauthorised innovations, but will be careful that nothing be wanting on his part to give to the public offices of the church their full weight and efficacy. Had the importance of this scrupulous attention to the prescribed ritual been at all times duly appreciated, I am inclined to think that the low and unworthy notions at present too prevalent respecting the rite of baptism would never have obtained so wide a circulation. So long as baptism was celebrated in the mode and at the time appointed by the liturgy, in a place set apart to the worship of God, and in the face of a congregation assembled together to offer to him their prayers and thanksgivings, every circumstance contributed to impress the mind with a deep sense of the exalted and solemn character of the rite, and men felt a ready disposition to believe that the divine blessing would attend a ceremony administered with every external mark of seriousness and devotion. But when, through the false pride or indolence of Parents on the one hand, and the too easy compliance of the Ministers of the establishment on the other, the practice of baptising children in private houses began generally to prevail; when the rite was no longer celebrated in the temple of God, where every object is associated with devout feelings, but in the rooms of a private mansion, the place of our constant abode, and consequently connected in our minds with the cares, the interests and the follies of the world, not in the presence of a large assembly met together for the purposes of social worship, but of a few persons, less intent perhaps upon the ceremony itself than upon the festive merriment by which it was to be succeeded, when so complete a departure from the views of the framers of our liturgy had taken place, can we wonder that the rite ceased to be regarded with the same veneration, and that men began to doubt whether it were in truth the sign of an inward and spiritual Grace? The careless and negligent administration of baptism, which may in no small degree be traced to the practice of performing the rite in private houses, haş, I am convinced, made more converts to the opinion, that regeneration does not take place in baptism, than all the arguments which learned and ingenions men have been able to produce in its support.
The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper is still regarded by the great body of the Members of our Church with that reverence, which is due to an ordinance, instituted by our Blessed Redeemer himself as one of the appointed means of communicating his grace to man. The very excuses which men are accustomed to make for absenting themselves from the holy communion, weak and unsatisfactory as they must appear to the eye of reason, clearly prove the importance which those who urge them attach to a participation in VOL. XX.
that sacred rite. Although they are unwilling to adopt that course of life which will fit them to approach the altar of the Lord, yet by their conduct they manifest their conviction that to approach it is a solemn act, requiring a previous and diligent preparation of the heart. Great then will be our responsibility if, through any carelessness or remissness on our part, or through any desire of substituting our own fancies in the place of the forms which have been prescribed by the authority of the church, we impair the dignified solemnity which attends this holy mystery, or weaken those feelings of awe and veneration, with which it continues to be re garded. If on the one hand it is our duty to guard our hearers from the error of supposing, that the ceremonies of religion possess in themselves any intrinsic force and efficacy; so is it no less our duty on the other to take care, that we do not by a careless admi. nistration of its outward forms lead men to believe that we lightly est-on-the spiritual benefits, with which by the ordinance of God himself those forms are connected. '. I proceed to another topic, the most important perhaps to which your attention can be directed, but at the same time the topic on which the greatest variety of opinions is likely to prevail ;; I allu.lę to the limits, which the Minister of the Church of England ought to prescribe to himself in his intercourse with the world. In the determination of this question the different habits, dispositions, and tempers of men will necessarily have great influence. Some are of a cheerful, social turn; others of a more retired and austere character; and what appears to the former only an innocent acqui. escence in the customs of society, will be deemed by the latter a ' mark of a light and frivolous mind, and wholly unsuitable to that grave and dignified demeanour which the minister of the gospel ought on all occasions to maintain.
The first suggestion then which I shall venture to offer on this subject is, that we be careful not to put a harsh construction on the conduct of our brother, nor to fancy that, because his. religion does not wear precisely the same appearance as our own, he is not therefore impressed with a due sense of the paramount importance of religion, and of the awful respousibility which attaches to the discharge of the ministerial functions. To prescribe a ge'neral standard of manners and demeanor, the slightest deviation from which shall be regarded as a proof of deficiency in religious feeling, is not more reasonable than to require that all men shall frame their countenances precisely according to the same model. Religion is not of this exclusive character; it will combine itself with all tempers and dispositions'; with the lively, as well as the sedate; with the cheerful as well as the
I shall observe in the second place that, in determining to what