"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."
THERE is a good deal in this short epistle of Jude which we may take as strikingly significant of the closing days of this dispensation. The doom of the fallen angels--the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrha--the destruction of the unbelieving Israelites in the wilderness: are set forth as types of the fearful destruction of members of the visible Church, who, though surrounded by all the privileges of Christianity, are nevertheless void of all true spiritual life--"clouds without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame: wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever."
 Just as in the Holy Gospels, and in the Pauline Epistles, very clear and express statements are made in reference to the apostacy of many in the professing Church, in the day when the Lord shall come to take account of His servants; so, too, here. Quoting a prophecy of the antediluvian Enoch (that type of the saints alive upon the earth when Christ comes, who "shall not sleep, but shall all be changed"), he says, "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."
Now, what is the duty which this "servant of Jesus Christ" impresses upon all who "are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called"? Our text tells us:--"earnestly to contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." The faith--i.e. in this particular use of the word, the several doctrines of our holy religion--is looked upon by Jude as something fully settled by Divine decree--absolutely fixed--to undergo no change throughout all the periods of the Christian era--nothing to be added to it--nothing to be taken from it; the faith once delivered to the Churchdelivered by word, and recorded by holy men taught and guided by the Holy Ghost--embodied in the Holy Scriptures, which our Reformed Church, in its grand 6th Article (I wish, brethren, you would all [4/5] learn this Article by heart) declares to contain "all things necessary to salvation, so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation."
Now, brethren, I have felt it my duty--I can most conscientiously say, in the sight of God, my painful duty--to bring before your notice this morning what I regard as a matter of unspeakable importance at the present time to the Established Church of this country. In doing so, I am well aware that I lay myself open to the charge of uncharitableness in my relation to some of my ministerial brethren, who perhaps look upon the matter as one of less significance than I do, or who even view it in a favorable light; or I may be stigmatised as a mere alarmist, who sees in every shaking branch the precursor of some terrible storm; and if, unlike the pastors compared by Isaiah to dumb dogs that cannot bark," yet as one going to the other extreme of barking at mere moonshine. My answer shall be one and the same to all who may blame me; and it is this--
I believe the Church of England, in its present constitution and relations, to be on the verge of a tremendous crisis: the good old ship, which has weathered many a storm, seems likely to become a wreck, ere many years have passed. I believe that the main cause of this is, no longer the apathy and idleness of its Clergy and laity, but the energy [5/6] and zeal with which many of its Clergy and members are propagating the Antichristian doctrines of the Apostate Church of Rome, adopting by degrees (some only beginning to do so, others having made some considerable progress, while a few, at least, seem to have reached the very goal) its elaborate and its sensuous ritual, and insinuating the deadly poison of its errors into the ears and minds and bosoms of the young especially, but also of the old.
A gigantic effort, a tremendous pulling together of all the enemies of simple, evangelical,. Bible truth, with the fixed determination not to secede as a body to the Romish Church, but if possible to re-Catholicize (i.e., to give their plain meaning, to re-Romanize) the English Church, and make it, no longer simply a nursery for the training of individual seceders, but the very home, indeed, the very head quarters of Popery itself. For strange indeed that while other nations are, both in their political and religious life, throwing off the shackles of the tyrannizing power of that blasphemous system, that God dishonouring, that Christ denying religion--strange! that the Church of the most enlightened nation in the world (so we often boast) should be gradually decking itself with the filthy rags of Popery, and assimilating its services to that idolatrous pattern.
Sure enough we may be of this, that "an enemy hath done it." Satan, as an angel of light, has been ministering in her pulpits, giving forth at one time, Gospel Truth inoculated with the poison of [6/7] priestcraft, and at another time boldly teaching doctrines subversive of all that is comprehended in the expression of the faith which was once delivered to the saints."
There may once have been some doubt about the character and designs of this movement: at its beginning, several years ago, in the issue of the "Tracts for the Times," many of our steady-going Church people (who, while setting a high value on Bible truth, were much opposed to anything like unnecessary alarm) doubted whether it would grow to any dangerous proportions: but, brethren, there can be no doubt now, that such a wide-spread conspiracy exists which nothing but an earnest, faithful, and prayerful discharge of duty on the part of the Evangelical members of our Church can ever hope to expose and to put down. The mask has been thrown aside, and the real thing appears--and that is little short, if anything, of rank Popery.
Beloved brethren, to save our Church, if the lord will, from the fearful doom that threatens her, ought to be the noble ambition and constant aim of every one who holds her in love and esteem. For my own part, while I value infinitely beyond the privileges of any particular Church, a place and a portion in the one true Church of Christ ("Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it," Eph. v. 25), His Mystical Body of all true believers, of whatever nation or of whatever denomination; yet, as the Church of my Baptism and Confirmation--the Church by whose faithful ministry I was made to feel as a boy the [7/8] power of Divine and saving truth--the Church of my Ordination and Ministry--in which, too, I have enjoyed to a great extent the blessed privilege of the "Communion of Saints"; my conscience would give me no rest if I did not use all lawful means to put you in mind of the mischievous and undermining plans of many, both clerical and lay, professed members of the Church of England--if I did not "exhort you earnestly to contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."
The recent "Bennett Judgment"--whatever may be the diversity of feeling about it among the various members of the Evangelical section of our Churchcannot but be looked upon in all faithfulness by every one of us, as, to say the least, a disaster, a compromise unworthy of a Church professing, as in its VI. Article, and indeed in all its formularies, to build itself only on the pure, unadulterated Word of God.
Most of you are aware of the character of that Judgment. But some, even of our educated members, may have misty notions about it, which have need to be cleared and enlightened. Let me try in very simple and familiar language to do this.
For some years in the Church of England an organization of some of its members, having for their aim the un-Protestantizing of our Church, has been making (I fear to say) rapid progress. This bears the name of the "English Church Union." To a man, its devoted members are unfaithful to the plain Protestant teaching of our xxxix. Articles, and either utterly ignore [8/9] them, or try, as Dr. Pusey did in his "Eirenicon," to prove (alas! what human ingenuity will sometimes aim at!) that these xxxix. Articles are after all quite capable of being reconciled with the Romish decrees of the famous "Council of Trent"--which to any plain common sense man would seem like trying to prove that white is after all very like to black.
Now, to frustrate the efforts of this Union of Sacramentarians, a counter Union has for some few years been in existence, called the "Church Association." This consists of Clergy and Laymen who maintain the Protestant character of our Prayer Book, and who, though they may see blemishes even of a doctrinal character here and there, yet boldly assert that the compilers of the Book were influenced by a resolute determination to protest against and to avoid the heresies of Rome, and to introduce and teach nothing not clearly supported by Holy Writ.
This Association has felt it its duty (and I believe rightly so) to conduct prosecutions against certain Clergymen offending, as they thought, against the Protestant teaching of our Church Formularies. This they did not from desire but from compulsion. The Bishops would not, and tacitly pleaded that they could not (the expense of such being so enormous); hence it was incumbent upon the "Church Association" to do so, if the law was ever to be made clear upon these matters of ritual excesses, and doctrinal errors.
In the first prosecution, conducted against a Clergyman whose name we will not mention, (having just [9/10] departed this life), they were successful in proving that the ritualistic performances, such as the elevation of the cup in the celebration of the Holy Communion, were illegal. Thus far, all was satisfactory. But the Council of the Association very properly felt that they had only done a part of the work entrusted to them. They had proved the illegality of the outward ritual, but as yet they had not touched the inner doctrine which that ritual set forth. Hence the prosecution of Mr. Bennett, the Vicar of Frome. This Clergyman had very plainly taught these very doctrines which the Protestant members of our Church recognise at once as closely allied to, if at all to be distinguished from, the essential errors of Popery. And the Church Association were anxious to have it proved by the highest court (the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council) that such teaching was contrary to the teaching of our Formularies and Articles, and consequently illegal.
The decision of the Privy Council is now known as the "Bennett Judgment." This Judgment I will again characterise as a disaster and a compromise. It is a disaster, for Mr. Bennett was acquitted; and thus it is declared by the Final Court of Appeal, that such doctrines as Mr Bennett teaches may be taught by any Clergyman in the Church with impunity. It is a compromise: there was evidently a desire to satisfy to some extent all parties in the Church of England; to keep the peace, but at any price, even the cost of pure truth
 Mr. Bennett, while acquitted, is severely reproved as having ventured "perilously near to a violation of the law;" and what is of the greatest satisfaction (and the only satisfaction) to the Evangelical section of our Church, in the deliverance of the Judgment, the Judicial Committee in their interpretation of the Articles and Formularies of the Church maintained in the clearest terms the Protestant character of our Prayer Book. Let me shew this. Mr. Bennett was prosecuted upon three charges.
I. As to the Presence of Christ in the Holy Communion.
Mr. Bennett's teaching was this: that there is "a Presence real, actual, objective, a Presence in the Sacrament, a Presence upon the Altar, under the form of Bread and Wine"!!
These words, brethren, cannot but shock you, and make you wonder how it could be possible that any Clergyman who had signed the xxxix. Articles could yet teach in our Church doctrines obviously so contradictory of their plain meaning.
And so says the Judgment:--"any other Presence than this--i.e., any Presence which is not a Presence to the soul of the faithful receiver, the Church does not by her Articles and Formularies affirm or require her Ministers to accept This cannot be stated too plainly,"
II. As to Sacrifice in the Holy Communion.
Mr. Bennett's teaching was this: that "the Communion Table is an Altar of Sacrifice, at which the [11/12] Priest appears in a sacerdotal position at the celebration of the Holy Communion; and that at such celebration there is a living, real, spiritual, great sacrifice or offering of Jesus Christ our Lord by the ministering priest; and that the incense is the mediation of Jesus ascending from the altar to plead for the sins of men"!!
In answer to these unwarrantable assertions, the Judgment speaks plainly. Attend to its words. The Church of England does not by her Articles or Formularies teach or affirm the doctrine maintained by Mr. Bennett. She has deliberately ceased to do so. . . . . . It was no longer to be an Altar of Sacrifice, but merely a Table, at which the communicants were to partake of the Lord's Supper. It is not lawful for a Clergyman to teach that the sacrifice or offering of Christ upon the cross, or the redemption, propitiation, or satisfaction, wrought by it, is, or can be, repeated in the ordinance of the Lord's Supper: nor that in that ordinance there is or can be any sacrifice or offering of Christ, which is efficacious in the sense in which Christ's death is efficacious, to produce the remission of the guilt or punishment of sins."
III. As to adoration of Christ present in the Holy Communion,
Mr. Bennett teaches that "he himself adores and teaches the people to adore, Christ present in the Sacrament under the form of bread and wine, believing that under their veil is the sacred body and blood of his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ"!!
 Again the Judgment is clear and satisfactory. It says: "The doctrine, that adoration is due to the consecrated elements is contrary to law, and must be condemned. The Church of England has forbidden all acts of adoration to the Sacrament, understanding by that the consecrated elements."
Brethren, ye who love Evangelical truth and hate the errors of Popery must feel a sense of relief in reading or hearing these plain outspoken words of the Judgment. There is something to congratulate ourselves upon in this decision:--the position of all Evangelical Teachers is supported, and declared to be the only legal one. The Evangelical Clergy are proved to be the only faithful Teachers of our Protestant Church. So far, so good. But in spite of all this which is satisfactory about the Judgment, there is that other side, already referred to, which, I think, cannot fail to make every true lover of Revealed Truth, whether member of our Church or not, mourn at the encouragement thus given to all those Teachers who "make the Word of God of none effect by their tradition."
But as members of the Church in which this false doctrine is now practically allowed (though declared contrary to the teaching of our Prayer Book--strange contradiction!) surely there is something else beyond grieving over the result which ought to influence each one of us at such a crisis. Can nothing be done to stay the progress of this torrent of evil which threatens to bring to nought the grand work of the Reformation [13/14] for which our English martyrs nobly sacrificed their own lives? Did they die for the truth, and shall we be unwilling to stir ourselves in its defence? What is our duty? This is a question which has weighed upon many a mind during the past few months.
I. Some few have already answered it by secession. They have left a Church in which they could no longer conscientiously abide. Their consciences were ill at ease, and the prospect of ridding our Church of its Romish adherents by all lawful means within our reach, seemed to these disconsolate ones to be very far removed, if at all probable. Accordingly, their only safety seemed to them to be in flight. They deem that the Church has by this Judgment sinned, and of those sins they decline to be partakers, and to deliver their consciences they rid themselves of any further connection with our Church. Have they, then, set an example which it would be wise or good for us to follow? I answer plainly, no. We must give them credit for acting honourably and bravely, being "fully persuaded in their own minds,'"and so far, they have acted well; but I doubt whether they have acted wisely, or under the guidance of a sound judgment. Is this a time to surrender our blood-bought privileges into the hands of the enemy? Shall we give up the contest within our beloved Church, because of the severity of the struggle? "Have we yet resisted unto blood" earnestly contending for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints? I will tell you, brethren, what would have made it impossible, I [14/15] should think, for any of us who hold sound doctrine upon the subject of the Holy Communion, to have remained within the pale of the Church of England. Had it been declared by the Judicial Committee that the doctrine taught by Mr. Bennett was strictly orthodox, when viewed in the light of the doctrinal teaching of our Prayer Book; and that the teaching uniformly given by the Evangelical section of our Church was contrary to the Articles and Formularies of that book; then, I am persuaded, that hundreds, probably thousands, of her Clergy and laity would have seceded from her ranks, feeling, and justly too, that they had no right to be joined with her. But the very opposite is the case--an argument, it appears to me, most weighty in reference to every true Protestant in the Established Church.
II. But some have answered our question by suggesting a movement in favor of disestablishment, thinking, I suppose, that by so doing, we should be likely to have the active sympathy of pious Nonconformists throughout the country, and thereby get a more favourable consideration on the part of the government in the settlement of this question. I can only answer to this, that, to say the least, it is decidedly premature to take any such action. Whatever policy the rapid course of events may some day thrust upon us, any one at the present time who is attached to our Church incurs a serious responsibility, who would help forward in the least the fulfilment of the programme [15/16] of the Liberation Society in regard to the dismantling of our Church.
What then, brethren, can we do? The first thing, and the only thing, that can be done at present is to sign the "Declaration" and "Memorial" which have been issued by the Council of the Church Association, and copies of which have been put into my hands, by more than one of yourselves.
The "Declaration" is directed against Romish teaching in the Church of England, and states our conviction that such teaching is contrary to the Word of God, and thereby dishonouring to our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ; and that only by the exclusive maintenance of pure and scriptural doctrine, can the Church of England vindicate its character as a pillar and ground of the truth, and continue to deserve confidence as the National Church of this Protestant country.
The "Memorial" addressed to the Bishops of our Church, is an earnest appeal to their Lordships, as bound by their solemn consecration vows to use "all faithful diligence to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God's Word, and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to the same." After specifying certain modes of action open to their Lordships, the memorialists assure them of their deliberate conviction, that any hesitation on the part of the rulers of our Church in the present crisis, to take action on these points, will destroy the confidence and alienate the [16/17] affection of a large portion of its lay members, and imperil its position as the Established Church of this Protestant kingdom.
Such is the Declaration, and such the Memorial, which those of you, brethren, who agree with may sign. If you ask me, what good will these do? my answer is; what practical effect they will have upon our Bishops and our Church I do not know; but they give us, at all events, a means of making a solemn public protest at the present crisis, delivering our own consciences, and doing all that, as yet, we know that we can do. Leave the rest to God. To-day is ours, to-morrow His; duty is ours, events are God's.
In conclusion, beloved, having thus spoken what I believe to be the truth upon this painful subject--and I hope, too, it has been spoken "in love"--let me earnestly exhort those of you who by "repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ" realise your union with Christ, and membership of His one true Church, to draw near with faith to the table of the Lord, not as to an altar of sacrifice, as though Christ did not on Calvary make "a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world;" but as partakers of a full and free salvation, then and there perfected for you by the "one offering of Himself once offered," draw near in humility and faith, to commemorate that wondrous love, to eat and drink of the pledges and outward emblems of that love, and to renew the offering (not of the Lamb of God, but) of [17/18] yourselves, your souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto Him. As in the most explicit and touching words of administration: "The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, (that Body now in heaven), preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this (this broken bread) in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on Him in thy heart (not mouth) by faith, with thanksgiving."
The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this (this poured out wine) in remembrance that Christ's blood was shed for thee, and be thankful."
The unmistakeable design of the leading Ritualists of our Church to re-establish Popery amongst us, is evident enough from the language constantly used in their periodicals. Take, for instance, the following:--
"What, we should like to know, has the Church of England to do with the spirit and principles of the Reformers, except to get rid of them as soon as possible."--Church News.
"The work going on in England," says the Editor of the Union Review, "is an earnest and carefully organized attempt on the part of a rapidly increasing body of priests and laymen, to bring our Church and Country up to the full standard of Catholic faith and practice, and eventually to plead for her union with the See of St. Peter."
"We are weekly praying in behalf of the Holy Father, and for restored communion with the see of St. Peter."--The Union Review.
"If we were to leave the Church of England, she would simply be lost to Catholicism. To join the Roman Catholic Church in any but a corporate capacity, would be, in our opinion, to sin against the truth."--The Union Review.
"We give the people the real doctrine of the mass; the name will come by and by. So with regard to the Cultus (or Worship) of the Virgin, we are one with Roman Catholics in faith, and we have a common foe to fight. There may be a few divergences of practice on our side, but we make no terms: we come in the spirit of love and humility; and we are sure that the Chief Shepherd of the Flock of Christ will deal tenderly with us."--The Union Review.
"Protestantism, as a living force, is extinct. Its work is done; we must increase, Protestants must decrease. Justification by faith, the most immoral of Protestant dogmas, has run its tether."--Church News.
In the now famous publication of the "Church and the World," all written by High Church Clergymen, the Reformation is called a misfortune; the Thirty-nine Articles are spoken of as the forty stripes save one laid on the back of the Anglican priesthood; the re-union of the Romish, Greek and Anglican communions, excluding all Protestant communions, is advocated; and it is boldly declared that a re-action has at length come, and the Catholic leaven is working out the Puritan leaven.