W.J. CLEAVER, BAKER STREET,
I HAVE abstained most carefully from all topics of controversy, because I have always thought that the gravamen of the sin of which our priests are guilty in abandoning the Church of England is the violation of their Oaths. Laymen have made no oath of office. In forsaking the Church for the communion of Rome, they are therefore guilty only of Schism. But the priests, when they forsake the Church, are guilty of APOSTACY. And when I speak of Apostacy, I of course mean to consider as implied and involved in it the abandonment of the true doctrines of the Catholic faith, and the substitution of erroneous doctrines in their place. But the primary charge is that which I have to deal with now. However great a sin Schism is, Apostacy is of course sevenfold greater. The defence against the charge of Apostacy is this. At the time they were ordained to the holy office, or at the time they were licensed to their cure, they were ignorant of the real nature of the Church. Their minds had been worked upon by the force of subsequent circumstances; their conscience cannot be resisted. What kind of mind or conscience, then, had they when they offered themselves to the service of God at His holy altar, and sealed their vows by the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood? Was it a mind of gross ignorance, of gross hypocrisy, or of gross levity? Take which of these you please (for one of the three it must have been) and then say--of what value is the gain of such to the Roman schism? Of what value the loss of such to the Catholic Church?
For myself, I cannot help appending to this a little observation just conveyed to me in a letter--an observation which really, after all, converts this subject of grief into one of gratulation.
"Much indeed do we sympathize with you on the sad event which you named yesterday; but we have reason to bless God that he found all so anti-popish amongst our pastors, that he could not remain longer; and may we not bless God that he was so soon taken from the poor and uneducated children, among whom he might for a time have done so much harm."
Yes,--I believe this is the real philosophy of the matter,--and so let it remain in the hands of God.
W. J. E. B.
Feast of All Saints.
THE links and bands by which society is held together, order preserved, and the duties of life carried on, are so very minute and delicate, that in many cases they are imperceptible, just as in the human body the fibres, muscles and nerves by which the actions of the limbs are regulated are imperceptible. And yet, minute and imperceptible as they are, the health and vitality of the whole system depends upon their accurate preservation. All are intertwined and laced in one with another like net-work. You cannot displace one portion of the network without displacing it all; you cannot make a rent in one part of it without lacerating it all. It is a ravelled mass of infinitely various interests, objects, hopes, fears, pursuits. Take hold of the mass and attempt to unravel it, and wheresoever you lay your hand, you tear holes, and cut, and wound, and destroy it.
But upon what basis or groundwork is this tangled mass bound together? How is it that we perceive so readily the junction and incorporation of the whole, and yet, attempting to separate any of the parts, do mischief? It rests upon that basis which it seems to be the will of God should be the basis of all that belongs to this side the grave,--FAITH. Why we go forth from day to day into the fields and into the streets; why we speak to one another, and act upon the speaking; why we carry on certain transactions as mutually understood, expected, and looked for,--it would be impossible to say, were we not conscious that we TRUST ONE ANOTHER. Some things among us--as matters of this trust--are implied; not a word is spoken of an obligation; no open covenant is entered into; but upon the rules even of pagan morality, [3/4] they are implied as the basis of our sojourning together. Such as in the pointing out to a traveller the way which he is seeking,--that we point out the right way, not the wrong; the warning against danger to the unwary, that we do not wilfully suffer him to destroy himself; and those many duties which arise in the relative obligations of master and servant, landlord and tenant, buyer and seller, debtor and creditor, and the like. In all this, not a day passes, I had almost said not an hour, but we proceed unawares upon a principle of trust in one another. Offices of life are held: the obligations of those offices are implied as undertaken. Professions in life are set forth: the knowledge, skill, and labour of those professions to those who seek for them are implied as ready to be given. One man sets himself forth as a physician: we present ourselves before him, upon faith, that he is both capable and willing to exercise his art in our behalf. Another professes to the world that he is an advocate, we claim of him his advice and counsel in the intricacies of the law, upon faith, that he has the knowledge and the power which by his profession he implies that he has. Another offers himself to us as the teacher of our youth: we trust our youth to him, upon faith, that he has the ability, as well as the desire to impart that knowledge, which, by his open profession, it is implied that he has. And thus, if it were not for this trust--this mutual trust and confidence which we learn to have the one in the other--we could not live from day to day. You rise in the morning, and you lie down to sleep at night. You look for a supply of food upon your table. You eat that food when placed before you. Houses are built wherein you may be sheltered; garments prepared in which you may be clothed; fuel by which you may be warmed. All these little daily minute operations of life you look for, expect, and find without a thought: but if you did think, you would find that faith, or trust, was the principle upon which, in them all, both you were acting towards others, and others were acting towards you.
But, moreover, in addition to these which may be called the implied obligations of life, there are other more solemn contracts and covenants which call forth before God and man the principle of faith. Such, for instance, as between the Christian and God in his baptism; such as between [4/5] husband and wife in marriage. It is not thought either by God or man sufficient, on such solemn occasions as these, that we should proceed on a mere implied obligation. The obligation is made a covenant by seal and sign, by vow and open pledge. "Wilt thou avouch God to be thy God, and Jesus thy Saviour? I will." "Wilt thou be baptized in this faith? I will." Then the Chris tian sets to his seal by the font, and God sets to His seal by the Spirit, and the Church sets to Her seal by the water; and that Name is named over the covenant, which is never otherwise named than when we speak the truth and mean it--"God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost." The like with marriage. One is taken from the whole number of one sex, and another from the whole number of the other sex; and these two become, in a mystery, which God has sanctioned and blessed, one to each other. They are to each other as none else ever can be; and they pledge themselves to certain affections, actions, and interests, which none else to them can ever hold, and the same Name is named over the covenant,--"God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost." Because they are great things and have great objects, we would make them great by swearing by His name who alone is great. We will not trust ourselves as to what we intend, or what we hope to do, or what we wish to do. We bind ourselves to what we must do, and we call God to witness, first, that all the world may know what we mean, and, secondly, that we may be kept to the covenant which we make; because as men, as believers in God, and as Christians, we hold and remember the precept of our Lord confirming the Old Testament by the New,--"It has been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the law thine oaths."
But there is a time, if possible, more solemn than even baptism or marriage--a time, which applies indeed immediately to one class or order of the Church only, yet so applies, that its fruits or consequences ultimately are visible throughout the whole community. That which baptism and marriage is to the individual,--Holy Orders is to the Church. If in baptism, we make a covenant with God for our individual cleansing, holiness, and faith--in Holy Orders we reiterate that covenant, not with respect to the [5/6] fruits acting immediately upon ourselves; but upon the whole, wide, expanded area of God's Church. If in marriage we call God's name to witness that we become the spouse, the sworn spouse and bridegroom of the bride,--never to be parted, never to be rent asunder, come weal or woe, come poverty or riches, come sickness or death,--that very compact and covenant we reiterate in the sacramental rite of Holy Orders,--when we place ourselves before God and the world, and invoke His Holy Name to witness, that henceforth, to the Church, we are married and become a husband, and stand, as it were, like our blessed Lord Himself, by the side of His spouse the Church; ever holy, lest we defile Her,--ever faithful, lest we deceive Her,--ever true, lest we forget Her.
Holy Orders is the taking up of our individual baptism, and becoming baptized in the baptism with which Christ was baptized--"Blood" and drinking of the cup out of which Christ drank "tears": the blood, not for ourselves, but for the CHURCH: the tears, not for ourselves, but for the sins, sorrows, infirmities, and passions of those to whom we may be sent to minister. Holy Orders is the taking up of our individual marriage; and setting it aside as nothing, then raising up before our view that chaste and holy spouse, which the Lord Jesus Himself, with His own hands, sent forth to work His mercies for lost men; and upon whom, in Her virgin purity, He breathed with His holy breath, and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." It is the setting forth this spouse,--It is saying, as it were, "Now, O Lord God, I the vile, the unworthy, and the sinful,--yet, by the operation of Thy Spirit, and the power of Thy commission, venture to come nearer Thee than other men,--to touch Thee closer, to love Thee dearer; my heart, my mind, my energies, my life, my breath, are Thine,--I vow myself to Thee, Thy servant, Thine only,--Thee I will serve, Thee only. I receive the laying on of hands, and with that, the Spirit by which I shall be made one with Thee, one with none else. Henceforth I know none but Thee. O Lord, accept me, never to be parted from Thee, never to desert Thee, never to deny Thee. Where Thine altar is, there, henceforth, will I be its minister: where Thy services are, there will be mine: where Thy people, my people; where Thy sorrow, my sorrow; where Thy glory, my glory.
 This vow earth is called to witness, and heaven, and the holy angels, and the saints in their beds. Before the thrones and principalities, and powers, visible and invisible, the priest stands forth, confessed and vowed, the servant of the living God, His priest until death.
But further. In Holy Orders,--there is not only this abstract self-dedication: this general vow and covenant made of the body and the soul to God's service as His priest; but there is, also, in the Catholic Church throughout the world, and so agreeing in the Catholic Church of England, specific forms and oaths, to which, before the laying on of hands, every priest is pledged. Every Church has her canons, and articles of faith, and rules of discipline,--to these the hand is subscribed and the oath is sworn that he will abide faithful and true to them. Not to say anything at present (because of the time) in regard to these Articles, to which subscription is made, and by which the regulations are binding in the services of the Church,--the forms of prayer,--and the ministration of the sacraments; not to say anything of these at present, let us take this one prominent oath, which is, after mature study and with a clear mind, by every bishop, priest, and deacon, of the English Church, deliberately sworn:--
"I, A. B. do swear, that I do from my heart abhor, detest, and abjure, as impious and heretical, that damnable doctrine and position, that princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope, or any authority of the See of Rome, may be deposed, or murdered by their subjects, or any other whatsoever. And I do declare, that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate, hath, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm. So help me God."
Upon which, the Holy Scriptures are taken in the hand and kissed. Then, as though this were not sufficient, we are led on from this preliminary oath to the steps of the altar, to confirm it,--there we kneel, and questions are put:--
"Are you persuaded, that, the Holy Scriptures contain sufficiently all doctrine required of necessity for eternal salvation through faith in, Jesus Christ? And are you determined out of the said Scriptures to instruct the people committed to your charge, and to teach nothing as [7/8] required of necessity to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the Scriptures?"
Answer:--"I am so persuaded, and have so determined by God's grace."
Then further questions of similar import are put in succession, and prayer is made; and then LAYING ON OF HANDS to seal the pledge, and the whole is summed up and registered before God, in the Body and Blood of the Holy Sacrament.
I put it to you, my brethren, can any pledge be conceived or planned greater than this, any obligation more vital, any oath more stringent? There is first the deliberate study, and years of preparation. There is secondly the fasting and the prayer of the Ember Season. There is thirdly the private examination of the bishop. There is fourthly the testimonials and witness of many brethren. Then fifthly comes the subscription of the Articles, and the Oath; and first, the oath of Abjuration--that certain things are not and will not be held, namely, the peculiar errors of the Church of Rome; and secondly, the oath of Affirmation--that the Church of England is the Catholic Church, and contains the truth; and that any Church, or representative of a Church, pretending to hold jurisdiction or authority, spiritual or ecclesiastical, in this realm, is guilty of schism; and, thirdly, the oath of duty--what to teach, what to say, how to minister, and what to do. And then finally, upon the oath and the sacrament, and the Holy Spirit invoked, and the laying on of hands, there is the flock selected which the priest is to tend, and the altar before which he is to minister, and the pulpit from which he is to preach: and as for him, on his part, are chosen the place and the people wherein to serve God and fulfil his vow; so the people, in the reciprocal faith by which all things are mutually considered between man and man, without a question believe in what they see and hear; and rightly argue, that because men cannot swear by a greater, they have sworn by God.
Well, then, being so engaged and hemmed in, on the right hand and on the left--the implied obligations of duty as set forth on the face of a professed order, and the actual obligations of oaths sealed by the Spirit of God--what is to be the end? Can we conceive of such an one, [8/9] in such a case, that he can ever be an APOSTATE? Can we conceive anything so fearfully dreadful, as that all this preparation and work of the Spirit--this solemn standing before the altar of the Living God--and this eating with his mouth the Body, and drinking with his lips the Blood of his Crucified Redeemer, in testimony that what he was saying and doing was true;--can we conceive of any one that he should trample it all under foot, and scatter it to the winds as so much child's play--that it should go for nothing--that it should be cast to the dogs--that the oath, and the testimony, and the covenant, and the brotherhood, and the flock, should all be openly scouted, and the very opposite set forth in their place;--those called heretics to-day, who were yesterday brethren--those sacraments scorned and denied, which were before venerated and loved--those ministrations ridiculed, which were before zealously affected and performed? If facts did not press upon us the fearful truth, we might indeed be excused if in our incredulity we denied its possibility.
But, alas! we cannot deny it. To us this awful lesson has come (let us speak of it in all the depth of sorrow) of a mind so lost and dissipated by perverse reasonings; with intentions, let us hope, meaning right, yet so obscured by mists and clouds of sophistry, as to have lost sight of everything true, and honourable, and just; and to have plunged recklessly, and with a judicial blindness, into the depths of a sin, the fruits of which eternity can alone disclose.
You know, my brethren, to what these observations allude. You will forgive me if I speak with greater warmth than usual (let only that warmth be tempered with charity), when I tell you--at least those who have yet to learn it--that one of those who were appointed in this parish to assist in the services of our beloved Church of England, according to the oaths of his priesthood, was received last Thursday--the Feast of S. Simon and S. Jude--within the communion of the Church of Rome; by which reception he has become not only guilty of a grievous act of schism, rending the flock into parts which he knew God willed to be one; but, moreover, beyond the sin of schism as a layman, he has been guilty of Apostacy as a priest.
There is a great deal upon which (in forbearance) [9/10] charity would command us to be silent. There is a great deal which one might desire to impute to the deceived imagination of a weak mind, or to the machinations of crafty plotters too powerful for his resistance. There is a great deal which at all hazards one would be glad to cast aside, as only tending to create the possibility of ill-will, and upon which, now that the evil is consummated, for quiet and peace' sake, one might be glad to set to sleep and forget. But, though I might be justified in so doing, as far as regards myself--being one of the parties in this matter grossly deceived--I should not be so justified, either towards you, my brethren, as a congregation, or towards the Catholic Church Herself at large,--being others in this matter as grossly deceived as myself. For it is not a case of years elapsing, between the time of the oath, and the time of breaking the oath; it is not a question in which we might trace, as in some others, the gradual weakening of the mind in its allegiance to the Church, by persecution and distress, or the gradual growth of feelings forgetful of the past, or dissatisfied with the present, in want of the sympathy of the brethren; it is not the case of one surprised into duties of neglected observance, or of witnessing practices abhorrent to Catholic usage; it is not the case of one forced into a position where the duties of the Church have been lost, where daily prayer is neglected, holy sacraments mutilated, the things of God irreverently handled, or the doctrines of the Church preached to the people with short-coming of their truth. It is none of these, but quite the contrary: it is the case of a rapid and momentary transition from one extreme to another, without an appearance of a reason--a seeking for an office voluntarily one day, and a loathing it the next--displaying either the fickleness of a child, or the weakness of one bereft of reason; it is the case of an oath deliberately assumed in one month, and--without the slightest shadow of a change in the circumstances which surrounded the oath--that oath violated within a few months after.
You will suffer me, I hope, to speak somewhat on this painful subject; both for the discharge of my own conscience as your pastor, and for your comfort in the future ministrations of this church. You have a right to know why all this has taken place, and how. You have a right to ask, that your feelings and your faith be not trifled [10/11] with by the strange evolutions of one set over you in the Lord by myself and your bishop. You have a right, as representing here a great body of the laity of this realm, to demand why it is that one should be introduced to you, to minister in holy things, and yet, no sooner has he begun to minister, than he is found to mock you, by deriding the faith which he professed to hold. These, then, are the facts:
It was only in the month of April last that he, of whom we unfortunately speak, solicited of me, with more than usual earnestness of entreaty, the office of a curate in this parish; and I, confiding in that implied truthfulness which one has a right to expect between man and man in the commonest things of life--much more in the solemn professions of the works of the priesthood,--appointed him to serve in this curacy, with more especial reference to those duties which were to be performed in the school-house and district of S. Barnabas. [In the delivery of the Sermon I stated, that it was in the month of May, but upon looking to the date of the license to the curacy, I find it to be the 23d of April. The day of joining the curacy was the 11th of June. Here, consequently, in the interval between the oath and the commencement of the duties which followed the oath, was a period of about seven weeks. In this period, time was given for reflection, and time was given for a withdrawal from the work of the priesthood had doubts arisen. But not a word is said, not a doubt hinted. The office is entered, the work begun. Up to this date then, we must hope, all was clear. On the 16th of August I left London for a few weeks' rest in the country. Up to this date, still not a word. On the 24th of August a letter reaches me, conveying information that the curate of St. Barnabas was in daily communication with priests and others of the Roman schism, and had secretly determined to abandon the Church of England, when a suitable opportunity should present itself. But not a word reached me from himself. Upon my demand, by letter, to know the truth of the information which had been conveyed to me, it was acknowledged, and these words used in reply: "I am happy to have it in my power to assure you, that your note to me has only anticipated one which, already written, I was going to send to you, as soon as various circumstances should point out to me the fitting time for transmitting it." The sin, then, had been committed and the treachery entered upon some time (we must suppose) between the. 11th of June and the 24th of August; a period, as I have assumed in the Sermon, of little more than two months. Counsel had been taken, plots entered into, and a system regularly devised, by which faith in the Church of England being abandoned, a letter was written, which was going to be sent, when "a fitting time should arrive." When would that fitting time have arrived, had not the treachery been accidentally detected?] Consequently, since it is the custom at the entrance of any new curacy to renew the subscription [11/12] to the Articles, and, before a licence is given by the bishop, the oath of supremacy is required to be again sworn,--it was only in the month of April last that these oaths to which I have alluded were deliberately and solemnly renewed. But observe the issue. The oath had hardly gone forth--the words had hardly left their sound still vibrating on the ear--the holy book had hardly yet become dry from the sacred kiss of solemn abjuration--wherein he denied the authority, both ecclesiastical and spiritual, of the Bishop of Rome within these realms--I say, the holy book had hardly become dry from the kiss of that abjuration--when, lo, he is found in an open adherence to that very Roman bishop whom he had so solemnly denied; hugging to his bosom the very errors which he had so determinedly professed to hate, and ready to propagate, with violent schismatics and sectarians, his newfound brethren, the very opposite and contrary of those pure and apostolic doctrines which he had vowed himself, before God and the Church, for life as His priest to teach. For what can we say? If the Church of England had in the interval changed in her character, or openly mutilated her doctrines--if great temptations had come upon the Church, and we had suffered many things, and had gone back from the faith--if twenty years had passed--ten years, five years, two years--something might be said. But when two months had barely passed; when no word is said of doubt or misgiving; when no guidance is sought as of friends within the Church; but counsel taken only of those without; when, beneath the unruffled exterior of one serving in the fold of Christ, there lay the whole time the secret lust after the accursed thing, and the spirit within was giving the lie to the words and deeds without; when we are left in our simple confidence to hear by an accident, [See note at page 11.] that plots and stratagems are being carried on to undermine the faith of the flock, and that he who was appointed the pastor was himself the traitor--what then are we to infer--what then are we to say--how then are we to characterize (keeping within the language of charity) an act of apostacy, so glaring, so indecent, and so fearfully treacherous in the eyes both of God and man?
Be it granted that the Church of England is false, and that the Church of Rome is in this country true. Be it [12/13] granted for an instant that we are wrong in our doctrine, deficient in our sacraments, wanting in the apostolic succession, corrupt in our discipline,--yet this falsehood, this error, this want, and this corruption existed quite as much in April last, when the oath was taken, as in July last, when the oath was broken. There could be no long course of study, deep meditation, or struggling prayer, ending in slow conviction, that all the preceding stages of the process of holy orders, the oaths, and the subscriptions were erroneous--in two months. We do not change our faith or our Church as we do our clothes. We are not, if we are of the Spirit of God, to be found one month in the ministration of the sacraments of the Church of England; and the next--without a word spoken to a brother--at once to be transformed into worshippers of the sacrifice of the Mass. We are not (it is horrible to think of the delusion of the mind which could entertain it) to be preaching at one moment to the people, that the doctrines of the Roman Church are adverse in many instances to all that is pure and catholic, and withal, the next moment to be their professors and advocates. What a fearful state of things this is for Christianity. I speak not of any particular Church, either Rome or England; but for Christianity altogether--for the faith of the Cross at large. What a depressed and degraded state of morals. What a subversion of all that is honest. What a sweeping away of all that is upright among men. What a demonstration of discipline destroyed, both in Churches and people, when thus the public violater of oaths is suffered to depart from one Church without a word of ecclesiastical denouncement, and to enter another with triumph and acclamation. Is this then hereafter to be an ordinary affair, a thing that is to be expected ever and anon; a thing that is to happen without need of observation,--that oaths, and conditions of faith, and the bonds of the Body of Christ knit together in holy fellowship, are to be cast off like the swaddling clothes of an infant? Are we to call God down from heaven to witness our hasty and ill-digested thoughts, clothed in outward solemnities of religion; and then, having made it serve our turn, so to speak, send God back again in mockery? Is the Church of England to look on, and fold her arms, and passively suffer? And is the Church of Rome to look on, rejoice, [13/14] and actively abet such an act as this, and triumph in it, and publish it abroad as a victory? Could there not be some little space for decency, that our memories might be a little dulled, some short breathing time between the capture of the victim and the exposure? Could there not be something allowed for old feelings to cool down, old prejudices to wear out, and words of old association by degrees to sleep? It surely had argued better for both sides in this miserable scene, that the new vow, "I love, honour, and obey," had not trodden so very closely upon the heels of that which had not yet become old,--"I abhor, detest, and abjure." The unholy repetition of baptism, so contrary to all the tenets and practices of Catholic times, had surely better followed with a little longer interval, wherein that great requisite which John the Baptist preached--repentance--might have had more retrospect of a broken vow, and more digestion of the divine precept of our Lord, "Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shall perform unto the Lord thine oaths." We do not know which most to wonder at, the impiety of those who have so mocked the sacrament of baptism, or the delusion of mind of him who has so treacherously departed. We do not know on which horn of the dilemma to place the miserable scene of last Thursday in its motive and its origin, either, on the one hand (which God forbid, for then the sin would be doubly aggravated), a purposed hypocrisy in the offering of services to the Church of England, when all the time it was intended, when a convenient season should come, to desert and apostatize from her; or, on the other hand, a most strange and puerile infatuation, amounting very nearly to an aberration of mind, in the supposed possibility of serving in the Church of England, loving the Church of Rome, making oath before God and man so to do in one month, and led away to forget and abandon the oath in the next month.
But now, my brethren, let us terminate this most miserable and odious theme. "He is gone from us, because he never was of us." So far I was bound to speak of him, that you, the flock, might no longer be in hesitation, or discomfort. Let the stain be now washed out. Let us purge it, and cast it from us as the offscouring of filth by which we have been polluted for a time, as by God's will. Let us take it, as no doubt it was intended by God, as a [14/15] lesson, to humble us, and to make us trust with less confidence in ourselves. Let us lay aside the tone of virtuous indignation to which we have so just a right, and put on rather, as becomes us, tears of shame and sorrow. Let us pray that, if possible, even yet the light of truth may visit him of whom we speak, so that he may be reclaimed from this great sin, and be restored to the Church which he has betrayed. Let us at all hazards have no personal ill-feeling towards him, grievous as is the injury which has been done; but treat of him and speak of him ever hereafter as one indeed fallen, one degraded, one for a time lost, but even yet capable of restoration, if God so will, and our prayers prevail.
For that which is to come--though all who bear affection to the services of this Church, and all who feel interest in the progress of those good works with which, with God's grace, we have been occupied--though all must feel more or less a dislocation of their best hopes, and a disappointment of their fondest wishes; still let them not, as I myself, with God's help, will not, be utterly discomfited. The wound inflicted in our hearts is yet fresh; there must be time to heal it. Our thoughts are as yet paralyzed, and we are bewildered; and we scarcely know whither we are to go, and what we are to do. A distrust creeps over us in every one we look upon, lest the scene should be repeated; and all our little community is thus robbed of the choice jewel of its brotherhood--namely, confidence in each other. All this, as the inseparable consequence of this sin, we must suffer.
That the world--the external world--will make much of this sad event, in depreciation of our endeavours to obey the Church in her highest calls of duty, and her purest forms of service, we must expect; that many weak brethren will flee away and be discomfited, not knowing what is the matter, we must expect; that those who are ignorant of the Church of England's real doctrines and principles, will seize upon this event, and turn it into a vehicle of slander and obloquy, we must expect; that the enemies of the Church--infidels, dissenters, and others--will gladly point with the finger of scorn, and say: "See what comes of the teaching which you receive":--that they will, in short, fasten upon this unlooked-for accident the imputation of a generally erroneous teaching, and a [15/16] false bias towards Rome, we must expect. It is for this reason that I now am speaking. It is for this reason--namely, that I may defend both you and myself against the possibility of such a charge; that I may shew you how entirely external and foreign to anything belonging to this Church, and my teaching, is the sin which we now deplore. And so let it pass away.
Let us not be cast down. Let us gather up our strength, and in our Holy Communion this day seek yet again for grace and light to guide us in that which is to come. Trials borne patiently will shew to God our faith. We must not expect that every thing is to go well with us. "It is good for us that we be in trouble, that we may learn God's statutes." It is good for us that we see how fallible men are, that we may the rather seek unto God, and trust less to ourselves. A victory has been achieved by those who are bitterly opposed to us. They have sung their song of triumph, because they have lured one more victim into the meshes of their net. Be it so. We yield--we are conquered. But not yet altogether. There are other fields yet to be fought, and other souls yet to be saved. In daily prayer, and in holy sacraments, in fastings and in watchings, in good works of alms deeds for the poor, in building our Church of S. Barnabas and in maintaining our schools--in feeding the lambs of the flock with gentle nurture, as Christ has committed the charge to us with His own voice,--in these things let us find our consolation. And as now God has punished us with this sore disgrace for our sins, so He may eventually bestow upon us His blessing for our penitence. [It was over this new Church that Mr. Chirol was intended to preside. It is here, then, that the blow falls so heavily, lest the weak brethren, taking offence at this inauspicious beginning, should withdraw their future alms-giving, upon which alone we depend for the completion of the work. It would be only adding victory to victory, and bringing to pass the very issue which the Romanist party has at heart,--were this to be the case. Rather should it give our people redoubled determination to complete what is begun, as it should give our clergy redoubled spirit in prayer, in watchfulness, and in labour, that we may regain the ground that has been lost.]
Since the first edition was published, a letter from Mr. Chirol to his friends has been placed in my hands,--a printed letter addressed to individuals, and signed with his name in writing. In this letter he calls upon them to join him in his new community, to "examine into their faith," to "listen to him as their friend"! to "give heed to his earnest entreaties". I must say that, upon the reading of this letter, I was utterly at a loss to know upon what moral grounds, usually held honest between man and man, it could be justified. I was in a mixture of amazement at the impudence, and sorrow at the degradation and loss of moral feeling which could dictate such a proceeding. That one, so short a time ago publicly professing to teach the faith of the Church of England, and as a curate in a parish gaining a certain degree of influence over the parishioners, should not only become an apostate himself, but use the influence which he had obtained in his official capacity for the subversion of the faith of these very parishioners, this certainly did strike me as partaking of a depth of moral darkness, which the Romanists out of policy should have avoided, if not out of decency. This surely was a mistake, for no Englishman, of whatever creed he be, or of whatever poverty in things spiritual, is likely to look upon such a proceeding as this, with anything but indignation.
In this letter Mr. Chirol states two very important points corroborating what I have only surmised in the sermon--first as to the time at which his apostacy commenced, and so proving how long he was hypocritically serving the Church, which all the while he intended to abandon; and secondly, as to the solidity of the grounds upon which the reasons of his departure rested.
In the first page I read as follows:
"Shortly after coming to my curacy at St. Paul's, I was led by a dear and valued friend [a Romanist--one previously guilty of the same apostacy as himself,] whose continued, urgent persuasion to examine the reasons of Protestantism claiming our belief [it is not Protestantism that claims our belief. It is the Catholic Church of England] I could only look upon as a call from God," &c. &c. Here then we have the time. "SHORTLY [17/18] AFTER he came to the curacy." That was the 11th of June--and yet from the 11th of June to the 24th of August, he remained in the curacy, and never opened his lips to any of his brethren the clergy of S. Paul's,--four of us, and meeting daily in the public prayers and other offices of the Church. And then, even then--the 24th of August--the truth was forced from him involuntarily.
But, moreover, he betrays the grounds of his departure--And what are they? The persuasion of his friend he took to be a "call from God." And who was the friend? One on the opposite side. What crime or horrid sin, what depravity or foul excess, might not on this argument be defended? If you have a desire to do a certain thing which is externally opposed to your present views, obtain "a friend" who entertains the opposite views. Let him "persuade you." Then say it is "a call from God." Well, if thy proselytes, O Rome, build their faith on no surer grounds than these, thou art welcome to them, for all the good they might ever have done to the Church of England. Grieve for their loss as individual souls, and pray for them if their sins may be forgiven as far as regards themselves, we may and will, but as to their value to the Church, they are welcome to rest with thee.
No sooner had I read the printed letter above alluded to, which was brought to me by one parishioner, than it was followed by a written letter, enclosing the printed one, and couched in the following terms:--
"MY DEAR MISS,--Although I cannot appeal to a long friendship to justify my writing to you, yet I hope I may, to those hopes and interests which as Christians we possess, and beg your acceptance of the accompanying letter, praying that, however poor and imperfect it is, it may nevertheless be truly blest to you; and you may ere long enjoy the happiness which is now our blessed portion. I beg to remain,
"Most truly yours,--ALEX. CHIROL."
Now, I am happy to say, the persons to whom these and such like letters are written, are too faithful in their adherence to the Church to be discomposed by such sentimental trash. But, alas, there may be weak minds like his own, with whom it is possible such language might prevail. Let him, however, by this know well, that I am watching carefully his proceedings, and will, please God, guard the flock committed to my charge, against such hirelings, whose own the flock never were.
I thought it my duty to place the following notice in the [18/19] church, in order to warn my parishioners against the letters in question, and by way of pointing out the cessation of the spiritual functions of Mr. Chirol; for being still resident in the parish, and with this letter placed in their hands by their "friend"! I knew not what might be the issue.
"WHEREAS, MR. ALEXANDER CHIROL, late assistant curate of this parish, has joined certain Schismatics and Sectarians, generally called Romanists, and is thereby ipso facto DEPRIVED for the present of all the spiritual functions of HOLY ORDERS, and EXCOMMUNICATED from the Church of England; and whereas the said MR. ALEXANDER CHIROL has been circulating letters, and otherwise tampering with the Faith of certain of the parishioners, endeavouring to induce them to join him in his sinful act of Schism and Apostacy, it is my duty, as the parish priest, to warn the parishioners and all other faithful members of the Church; and they are hereby warned, against holding any intercourse by letter, speech, or otherwise, in spiritual matters, with the said MR. ALEXANDER CHIROL, until such time as he may be restored to the Communion of the Church. The rule of Holy Scripture and the Church is, that the faithful should not hold communion with Schismatics and Apostates, according to the precept of our Lord: "If he shall neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."--S. Matt. xviii, 17.
"The parishioners are also requested to notice, that the school-room of S. Barnabas (in addition to the present services of Sunday) will be opened on Friday evenings, at 7 o'clock, for an Evening Service.
"A Plain Lecture will be delivered by the Rev. WM. BENNETT, for the benefit of the poor, and those who seek religious instruction.
"The subject of the lecture will turn upon the peculiar features of the Church of England, as opposed to Dissent, and the Schismatic Communion of Rome, called forth by the conduct of the late curate.
"To commence next Friday, the 12th of November.
WM. J. E. BENNETT, M.A.
Perp. Curate of S. Paul's."
23rd Sunday after Trinity, 1847.