OCTOBER 14, 1840,
OF THE SOCIETY.
Such were part of the words of power and impression in which the great Apostle of the Gentiles couched his charge to the elders of the Asiatic Churches. It was an occasion of the deepest and most touching interest. He was about to take what the unerring voice of the Holy Ghost told him would be a long, a last farewell of that spiritual offspring which he had begotten in the bonds of the Gospel. They were about to bid a sad adieu to that spiritual father who had fed them with the sincere milk of the word—whom a long course of toils, and hardships, and dangers, undergone in their behalf, had bound to them by a tie of more than human affection. At this tender season, when their hearts were warmed and softened by the mingled influence of love and gratitude, he pours [5/6] into them the overflowing of his own. In a strain not of vain boasting, but of solemn and holy glorying, he calls on them to bear him witness, that he was "pure from the blood of all men:" and he subjoins the reason; because he had "not shunned to declare unto them the whole counsel of God."
We may suppose, that in this striking appeal to the bishops and elders of the Church, St. Paul was actuated by something more than that desire to unburden the heart which accompanies a state of excited feeling. We may conceive that he designed his glorying, and the reason of it, to afford a lesson to those who hung with such rapt attention on his lips. That it was his intention to teach them by it, that the way for them, as ministers, to be "pure from the blood of all men," was, to "declare unto them the whole counsel of God."
My brethren, there is no change in the relation of the Christian teacher to his people, since the hour when on the strand at Miletus this charge was delivered by the Apostle. It is equally the interest of the religious teacher now, as it was then, to be pure from the blood of all to whom he ministers. It is equally his duty, in order to this end, to declare unto them the whole counsel of God. The words, therefore, of St. Paul are as full and as fresh in their application to ourselves as to his immediate hearers; and they contain a doctrine as necessary to be understood, and felt, and practised by us, as by them. May He, under whose inspiration they were uttered, give us grace, in considering this important text, rightly to divide the word of truth, [2 Tim. ii. 15.] [6/7] that every one may receive the portion that falleth to him, and that as all hear, so all may be edified.
In considering the words of the Apostle, it is proposed:
I. TO INQUIRE WHAT IS HERE MEANT BY THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD?
II. TO PROVE THAT TO DECLARE THE whole counsel OF GOD IS THE DUTY OF ALL WHO INDIVIDUALLY OR COLLECTIVELY UNDERTAKE THE OFFICE OF CHRISTIAN INSTRUCTION.
III. TO SHEW THAT THOSE WHO HAVE DONE SO, MAY, BY THE EXAMPLE OF THE APOSTLE, LEGITIMATELY APPEAL TO THOSE WHO HAVE KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT THEY HAVE DONE, IN ORDER THUS TO PROVOKE THEM TO IMITATION. And
Lastly. TO APPLY WHAT SHALL HAVE BEEN SAID TO THE PURPOSE OF OUR MEETING THIS DAY.
I. To inquire what is meant by the whole counsel of God?
And this inquiry need not detain us long. The concurrent sense of the most eminent commentators seems to fix it to the meaning of the whole compass of Christian doctrine—the entire system of revealed truth. Of this great system the Church is the depository; for she is, by Divine appointment, the pillar and ground (or basis) of the truth. [1 Tim. iii. 15.] Now, [7/8] according to the decision of our own Church, solemnly expressed in her public formularies, the notes or marks of the Church are these: "Pure and sound doctrine;—the sacraments ministered according to Christ's holy institution;—and the right use of ecclesiastical discipline." [Homily for Whitsunday, p. 2.] These words, in which our own Church assigns the characteristics of the true Church universal, seem to furnish us with materials for an apt and comprehensive definition of that whole counsel of GOD, of which the Church is at once the witness, the keeper, and the dispenser. If the notes of the true Church are pure doctrine, right administration of the sacraments, and right use of ecclesiastical discipline, it would seem to follow that CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE, SACRAMENTAL ORDINANCES, and ECCLESIASTICAL DISCIPLINE, make up the whole of that truth, of which the Church is the pillar and ground; in one word—the whole counsel of GOD.
Taking, then, these words of the Church for our clue, we may pursue a little further our inquiry into each of these heads.
1. The first part of the counsel of God is DOCTRINE; which, agreeably to the sixth Article of our Church, is to be derived from the Bible, and the Bible only. This Divine record is the sole rule of faith, or standard of God's saving truth. But the Church requires in this doctrine that it be pure and sound. Now as all who profess and call themselves Christians refer to the Bible as the authority for the doctrines which they hold, we need a further rule, not of faith, but of interpretation, to fix the sense [8/9] in which the text of Scripture, in doubtful cases, shall be understood; and thus to guide us through the labyrinth of various and discordant opinions, all professing to be drawn from the Bible, and many to be drawn from it under the influence of the Spirit of truth. Such a rule of interpretation we have in the concurrent voice of the Universal Church from the earliest times. [Appendix A.] To this we resort not as to an infallible, but as to the best attainable, guide; at all events, one infinitely surer than any private interpretation of man's device. From the Bible, thus interpreted, we derive that pure and sound doctrine, that form of sound words; that faith once [for all] delivered to the saints; which forms the substance of the creeds of the Universal Church, and which contains all truth necessary for salvation. We have there as much as is needful for man to know and believe, for his soul's health, of that stupendous mystery into which the angels desire to look,—the creation, fall, redemption, and final allotment of man; together with the share, respectively, taken in this wonderful economy by the three Persons in the adorable Trinity; and respecting the privileges of that mystic body, in which God has gathered into one all who shall be heirs of eternal glory.
2. The next part of the counsel of God is SACRAMENTAL ORDINANCES; those channels through which it is his will to dispense his spiritual benefits to his Church. These the Church requires to be ministered according to Christ's holy institution. [9/10] But a ministration supposes a minister; a minister of grace, a divine minister. And, accordingly, the sense of the Universal Church, from the earliest times, on this point, has been, that an order of ministers deriving their appointment from God is generally necessary for the conveyance of Divine grace in the sacraments.
3. And this leads us to the last part of the counsel of God, viz., ECCLESIASTICAL DISCIPLINE: the maintenance of godly order, by legitimate authority, in the visible Church; including the rights of control over its members, and of ejecting from its communion obstinate offenders. This discipline our Church requires to be rightly used; and this right use the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, as explained by the constant doctrine and usage of the Church Universal, fix down to the appointment of an order of ministers to govern other ministers, and through them the Church of God; in one word, Bishops. It must be understood that I speak here of the theory of ecclesiastical discipline. It is indeed deeply to be deplored that the practice in our Church is so little conformable to the theory. But for this, as for our other many shortcomings, we ought to humble ourselves before GOD, trusting that as he has given us a dawn of better things, that dawn may, by his mercy, gradually increase unto the perfect day.
Such would seem to be, though in a hasty and imperfect sketch, the full and adequate meaning of the whole counsel of GOD. This counsel it is the duty of all, who individually or collectively undertake the office of Christian instruction, to set [10/11] forth entire to those whom they instruct; which was the
II. Point of which we were to speak.
Viewing the matter abstractedly, this might seem a point little needful to be urged. It might appear that what the Almighty had been pleased to reveal;—that what the Universal Church, the depository of his saving truth, had always understood that Revelation to mean, would have been fully and faithfully taught in all its branches—that not one jot or one tittle of the whole counsel of God would have been allowed to fail. But is it so in fact? Far from it. In this, as in other cases, human infirmity and wilfulness has interposed to thwart the gracious intentions of the Most High. We hold our spiritual treasure in earthen vessels. Ignorance, and passion, and prejudice, which mislead men respecting the interests of this passing scene, obtain and exercise a sinister influence upon those of the eternal world. Different times and occasions have seen different parts of the whole counsel of God magnified above or against others. At some periods, the Church and her ordinances have been brought so prominently forward as to cast that sacred word of which she is the witness and keeper into the shade. At other times, by an unholy divorce of what God has joined together, the Bible has been severed from the ordinances of the Church, and virtually represented as the whole of the Christian system. At another time, creation and preservation, or natural religion, commanded the chief attention and regard, so that redemption and sanctification were well nigh overlooked. And, at other periods, the contemplation [11/12] of that fathomless abyss, the eternal decrees of God, with their accompanying doctrines, have fascinated men's minds, and withdrawn them from duly regarding those principles of moral freedom and immutable morality which have been interwoven by the Great Author of Nature with the very framework of our being.
Thus, at sundry times, and in divers manners, have different parts of the entire counsel of God been virtually taken for the whole. Thus has the weakness and perversity of man prevailed to spoil that fair proportion, to mar that sweet accord, which ever characterizes the works of the Most High. Thus needful does it appear that those who instruct others, whether in an individual or in a collective capacity, should be reminded of the duty and necessity of setting forth the whole counsel of God, and of prophesying according to the proportion of faith; [Rom. xii. 6.] giving to each part of the Christian system its due prominence, and thus exhibiting the whole in its due strength and harmony.
III. To have done this, to have kept back nothing that was profitable for his hearers, and to be thus pure from their blood, was the comfort and support of St. Paul on the trying occasion referred to in the text. It furnished him with matter for an appeal to those who heard him,—the answer to which must have brought him unspeakable consolation. That appeal would also produce, and was perhaps intended to produce, its effect in the way of example. Those who beheld the Apostle's holy earnestness and boldness whilst he called on his [12/13] hearers to bear witness to his faithfulness;—who were constrained by the force of truth to bear record in his behalf;—must, in his appeal, and in their own response, have read their duty and interest to go and do likewise;—to declare, like him, the whole counsel of God, that, like him, they might be entitled to pronounce themselves pure from the blood of all men. The force of this example is not abated at this day. To this very hour those who have set forth the whole counsel of God are entitled to appeal, as St. Paul did, to the consciences of their hearers. Like him, they may look for an answer full of peace and of consolation; like him, they may expect to find their appeal made the means of calling forth the imitation of others.
IV. And now, my Christian brethren, let me briefly apply what has been said to the purpose of our assembling here this day.
You have before you the cause of a Society venerable both for its age and for its object;—a Society which, for nearly a century and a half, has been engaged in the all-important office of aiding the Church in the instruction of its members;—a Society which, by the soundness of the Church maxims on which it was established, and by the preponderance of a Church feeling amongst its members, has been enabled, in a wonderful degree, to maintain the integrity of the Church's doctrine, in spite of the defects and errors of its constitution. [On these points the Author desires to express his cordial assent to the excellent address of the Rev. W. Palmer, delivered before the Society, 5th May, 1840.]
It is the high and honourable distinction of this [13/14] Society, that amidst the fluctuations of opinion amongst schools of theology and individuals, she has, for the most part, with an upright, straightforward consistency, declared the whole counsel of God. When, during part of the last century, the current of theological opinion set strongly in a downward course to low views on the most material articles of our faith, this Society boldly stemmed the tide and held fast to the fundamental verities of the Church's creed. When, in succeeding times, a happy change had come over the spirit of the age, and when, in the ardour of their return to the long-neglected doctrines of grace, men were tempted to overlook the claims and privileges of the visible Church—this Society was at hand to put a bar to the opposite excess, and by her timely witness to prevent those claims and privileges from being forgotten or despised.
It will not in candour be supposed, that I am undertaking the advocacy of every religious sentiment, and every form of expression, to be found in the multifarious publications of the Society,—or indeed, of every publication upon its list. I confine myself to the general assertion, that she has not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God; and that, having so done, she is guiltless of the blood of those whom she has taught.
In this confidence, she is entitled in her measure to make the same appeal with the Apostle in his parting charge; and still more,—to make that appeal the ground of her claim to encouragement and support. Other and most important claims, indeed, she has, arising from the extent and the success (under God) of her labours, both at home [14/15] and abroad, as an auxiliary to the Church in the instruction of her people. But this ample field I leave for another occasion, and for better hands. I would only remark, in conclusion of this head, that, as setting forth the whole counsel of God, she has a claim to the support of all within our pale, however, under influences to be mentioned by-and-by, they may be led to give greater prominence to this or that part of God's revealed truth. Here they may cordially meet on common ground;—here they may conscientiously contribute to the spread of principles which, though they may differ as to their relative importance, both sides must admit to be important as well as true.
And here, my brethren, I may be permitted, as my subject has paved the way, to say a few words in relation to what may be called the two great schools of theology existing in the bosom of our Church; and to exhort the disciples of both to mutual consideration and forbearance. The chief difference between them is, the comparative degree of prominence assigned by each to one part or another of the whole counsel of God. According to the infinite diversity of men's natural dispositions, and acquired habits of thought, and study, and intercourse with others, some are led to contemplate with more intensity one part of that counsel, some another. And, agreeably to the infirmity of our nature, these differences of opinion have enlisted the passions on their respective sides, until, by the strifes and divisions prevailing among us, we approve ourselves carnal, and, though reputed Christians, are found to walk as men. The answer to [15/16] the Apostle's stringent demand, "Whence come wars and fightings amongst you?"1 must in this case, as in others, be supplied by his subsequent question, "Come they not hence, even of your lusts, which war in your members?" These things, my brethren, ought not so to be. We have, indeed, the highest authority for knowing that offences (and these amongst the rest) will come; but from the same quarter we have a fearful denunciation uttered, "Woe unto that man by whom the offence cometh!" Deeply, therefore, does it concern us to try our own spirits,—to come to know what spirit we are of,—and to ascertain whether we have and shew that spirit of Christ—that spirit of meekness, candour, and forbearance, without which we are none of his.
In order to form a correct judgment of the aspect under which any natural object appears to another, what is the plan we fitly and reasonably adopt'? It is, to put ourselves in his place, and to endeavour, as far as possible, to see with his eyes. How many a dispute about the apparent size and dimension of distant objects has been settled by this simple expedient! Just so is it our wisdom and our duty to act with regard to our differences of sentiment on religious matters; and the result would be, the peaceable termination of many an angry dispute about our opinions as to the relative importance of different parts of the counsel of God.
I have often dwelt with admiration and delight on the practice in this respect of an eminent servant of God, now gone to his rest. This great and good man, who, whilst "walking in the flesh, did not war [16/17] according to the flesh," was accustomed to set apart certain seasons for special prayer for those from whom he differed; [2 Cor. x. iii.] on which occasion he used to endeavour to place himself in their position and circumstances, and to make every candid allowance for them, which he could himself have desired at their hands. He was blessed in his deed, and answered in his prayer; for, throughout the record of a long and active public life, hardly a tincture of bitterness of feeling or expression is to be found. He walked with God, and was beloved of man, and his children are blessed after him.
Being followers of him, as he was of Christ, let the votaries of each of the great systems in our Church endeavour to put themselves in the place of those to whom they are opposed. Let them represent to themselves as strongly and as fairly as they can the arguments and trains of thought which may be supposed to have led their opponents to a different conclusion from theirs; and let them make a candid allowance for the various counter influences and disturbing forces which have operated to give a contrary bias to those who differ from them.
Are the one side of opinion that the great and primary doctrines and duties of Christianity ought exclusively to engross the Christian pastor's teaching, and the attention of his flock? Do rites and ceremonies, canons and rubrics, seem to them but as the dust of the balance, the fringe upon the hem of Christianity? Still, let them consider that that which is in some sense inferior may, at certain seasons, and on some accounts, pardonably challenge [17/18] more earnest thought and care. In a beleaguered city, the combatant, unreproved, leaves the citadel for a time, to defend those outworks without which it could not be maintained. The cultivator of the soil quits for a season, without blame, the care of his crop to repair those fences, without which it would be trodden down and perish. And, in like manner, the advocate of exterior order may be forgiven by his brethren, if at a time when the fences and outworks of the Church are out of course, he directs, for a season, his special attention to these necessary but inferior points.
Are the other side convinced of the necessity of maintaining the outward form as well as the interior life and essence of the Church, as the visible ground and pillar of the truth, as that candlestick by which alone the light of the Gospel can be supported and diffused? Are they, therefore, very zealous for upholding in small things, as well as in great, that authority which cannot be transgressed with impunity in the lowest points without endangering the highest? Still, let them make allowance for the pardonable jealousy of those, whose eye, fixed on the light of Gospel truth, can admit no meaner object, and who fear that, by giving prominence to inferior things, that light may be eclipsed and hid.
Above all, let both sides be greatly careful never to employ harsh, slighting, or contemptuous language. It is that unruly member, the tongue, set to work by the sour leaven of pride, which heaves and swells within us all, which is the grand embroiler,—which creates differences where they do not exist, and aggravates them where they do. This therefore, with holy David, we must, by God's help, [18/19] rein and curb, putting the first check, by humility, upon that mainspring of pride, which sets it in motion.
By this mutual forbearance, each side will be better enabled and disposed to form a right judgment of the whole counsel of God, and better prepared to set it forth to others. They will also be diverted from unseemly conflicts with their brethren within, to a vigorous and united resistance of those common enemies without, who rejoice in these divisions, and who look, when intestine contention has done its work of ruin, to "dance in the ashes of both." [Hooker.]
Alas for the weakness and wilfulness of our nature! that these homely truths, which, from their constant repetition, raise almost a nausea at the recital, should still possess a depth of meaning which we have so little learnt to fathom! Let us strive to extend our practical knowledge in these points. Let us cultivate, with the saints of elder times, and of our own, those graces which are most saintly: self-knowledge, self-abasement, self-restraint; severity towards ourselves—indulgence and forbearance towards others.
By this course, my brethren, this safe, and easy, and Christian course, if we cannot reconcile all opinions, we may at least unite all hearts. We may live, as brethren ought, in unity. We may keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We may walk in the house of God as friends. We may come together on occasions like the present, not purchasing present agreement by a dishonest [19/20] compromise;—not treading warily above the treacherous ashes of a hollow truce; but meeting honestly and fairly, yet kindly, upon the solid footing of acknowledged truths, mutually recognized; and of differences of opinion as to the relative importance of those truths, mutually respected.
And may He, who is the Author of peace and Lover of concord, grant us to be increasingly joined together in the same mind, and the same judgment! And to this end may He infuse into all our hearts that grace of humility which esteemeth others better than itself; of meekness which seeketh peace and ensueth it; and of charity which beareth and forbeareth, and thinketh no evil. [Appendix B.]
Now to God, &c.
In proof that this view is sanctioned by the public authority of our Church, I would refer to the celebrated canon of 1571. "Concionatores .... imprimis videbunt ne quid unquam doceant pro concione, quod a populo religiose teneri et credi velint, nisi quod consentaneum sit doctrinse Veteris aut Novi Testamenti, quodque ex illa ipsa doctrina Catholici Patres et veteres Episcopi collegerint." And to shew that this, her public teaching, was backed by the private opinions of her most eminent sons, in a period of her highest splendour, I would quote the following passage from a letter of the celebrated Isaac Casaubon (then a sojourner at the English Court) to Cardinal Perron, written under the sanction of King James I., and conveying his sentiments, and, as it should seem, those of the bishops of England. "B. Chrysostomus, cum alibi, turn ex professo in Homilia in Acta 33, tractans illam qusestionem: quo pacto vera Ecclesia inter plures societates, qua hoc sibi nomen vindicant, possit discerni; duo docet esse instrumenta judicandi, et qusestionis hujus decidendae; primo quidem Verbum Dei, turn autem antiquitatem doctrine non ab aliquo recentiore excogitatae, sed ab ipso Ecclesiae nascentis principio semper cognitae. Haec duo krithria Rex cum Ecclesia Anglicana, tota voluntate ampleetens, pronuntiat, earn demum se doctrinam pro vera simul et necessaria ad salutem agnoscere, quae e fonte Scriptures sacrae manans per consensum Ecclesiae veteris, ceu per canalem, ad haec tempora fuerit derivata.—Isaaci Casauboni ad Cardinalem Perronium Epistola; Londini, November 1612.
 Speaking of another letter of his to the same distinguished person, written a short time before and apparently on the same subject (i. e., the defence of the Church of England against R. C. objections), its learned author says to one of his correspondents, that he has in support of its contents, "l'autorité du Roi de la Grande Bretagne, et de TOUS les sages evêques de cette Eglise." To another who had commended it, he says, "Non propria mihi ilia laus est, sed ad sapientissimum Regem pertinet, gravissimosque hujus regni Episcopos, quorum ex mente libellus ille est scriptus." This testimony is of the highest importance, as shewing that the whole bench of bishops, at a time when that holy order flourished in England in deep learning and reverend piety, were of that school of theology which teaches that the BIBLE ONLY is the rule of faith; but that ANCIENT CONSENT is the rule of Bible interpretation. [For those were the days of Abbot, Andrewes, Barlow, Bilson, Buckeridge, Godwin, Harsnet, and Montague.]
To this specimen of the argument in behalf of ANCIENT CONSENT, drawn from authority, I would add a brief but luminous statement of that derived from the reason of the thing, as given by an eminent divine of our communion. "Whereas you are pleased to wish me an infallible judge of truth, I am very well content, and thankful to Providence for preserving me so good an expedient to find out the truth we are discoursing of, as the testimony of such unexceptionable witnesses [as the Fathers]. For, as Bp. Pearson speaks, in his exposition of the word belief, 'the strength and validity of every testimony must bear proportion with the authority of the testifier; and the authority of the testifier is founded upon his ability and integrity: his ability in the knowledge of that which he delivers and asserts; his integrity in delivering and asserting according to his knowledge.' Since, therefore, the Fathers who lived with and nearest to the Apostles were so eminent both for ability and integrity in this respect as to be unexceptionable witnesses, hence right reason, as judge, must necessarily decide that to be the true sense of Scripture which is attested to be so [22/23] by the joint and universal testimony of such witnesses. . . . And, consequently, we ought to have recourse to them as to the best witnesses of the true sense of Scripture. .... If, upon disagreeing with another about the sense of Scripture, I refer not the matter to be decided by the testimony of the Fathers, I do not use that which reason tells me is the best means for his conviction, as well as my own confirmation; and, consequently, do not act rationally, nor can truly satisfy my conscience that I have done the best I could, and consequently ought, in the case."—Dr. Wells's Letter to Dr. Samuel Clarke; Oxford, 1713.
I cannot forbear adding the two following extracts from Synodical documents, which shew the consent of two other distinguished branches of the apostolic stem with our own, on the important subject before us.
Having identified the doctrine of their Communion with our own, the SCOTTISH BISHOPS proceed to say: "The Church of England maintains, and has ever maintained, the authority of Scripture in the clearest terms; but she requires us to take along with us, in reading and interpreting Scripture, all the necessary aids by which we may best attain its import. In this view she has ever regarded .... the pure and primitive tradition of the Catholic Church. This she has ever regarded with peculiar reverence, not as having an equivalent authority, but as the best means of enabling us to ascertain the original, and, therefore, the only true meaning of the sacred record."—Pastoral Letter of the Scottish Bishops, 1839.
To the same sense speak the PROTESTANT BISHOPS OF AMERICA: "It has been a question how far, in the estimation of the Church of England, and of course of her daughter in the United States, the works of the Fathers are to be resorted to for the ascertaining of Christian doctrine, discipline, and worship. Those two Churches are explicit in their belief that the Scriptures are the only standard of Divine truth; yet, in the preface to their Ordinal, in their Articles, and more copiously in their Homilies, those ancient Fathers are referred to as having weight on the points to which they are applied." ....
 Of the benefits arising from this principle of interpretation, the following striking exemplification is afterwards given: "These heresies (viz., those relating to the Trinity in Unity) were resisted by a succession of men who were known to speak the sense of the Universal Church, and whose works have been transmitted to us. Succeeding times have reproduced these heresies. Does it not then contribute to security that there may be found a preservative from the poison of them in the documents referred to? The Church of England, under the security of Divine protection, has kept close to the integrity of revealed truth: while denominations formerly consenting with her have departed from their united testimony, in some instances, to the verge of infidelity. Who can tell to what extent the error has been occasioned by a light esteem of what was held universally by Christians immediately after the age of the Apostles?"—Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of the American Protestant Church, 1835.
In support of the pacific sentiments which it is the object of the concluding part of this Sermon to inculcate, I would earnestly beg the calm attention of my brethren both in and out of the ministry, to the following important extracts: the first, from one who has long been ranked among the masters of our Israel; the second, from one who bids fair to be "not a whit behind the very chiefest" of that number.
He [the Catholic Christian] sees and deplores it, that many men study hard and understand little; that they dispute earnestly and understand not one another at all; that affections creep so certainly, and mingle with their arguing, that the argument is lost, and nothing remains but the conflict of two adversaries' affections; that a man is so willing, so easy, so ready to believe what makes for his opinion, so hard to understand an argument against himself, that it is plain it is the principle within, not the argument without, that determines him.......
He considers there is such ambiguity in words by which [24/25] all lawgivers express their meaning; that there is such abstruseness in mysteries of religion, that some things are so much too high for us that we cannot understand them rightly; and yet they are so sacred and concerning that men will think they are bound to look into them as far as they can; that it is no wonder if they quickly go too far, where no understanding, if it were fitted for it, could go far enough; that, in these things, it will be hard not to be deceived, since our words cannot rightly express those things; that there is such variety of human understandings, that men's faces differ not so much as their souls; and that, if there were not so much difficulty in things, yet they could not but be variously apprehended by several (i. e., different) men: and then, considering that in twenty opinions it may be that not one of them is true; nay, whereas Varro reckoned that among the old philosophers there were 300 opinions concerning the summum honum, and yet not one of them hit the right.
He sees, also, that in all religions, in all societies, in all families, and in all things, opinions differ; and, since opinions are too often begot by passion, by passions and violence they are kept; and every man is too apt to overvalue his own opinion; and, out of a desire that every man should conform his judgment to his that teaches, men are apt to be earnest in their persuasion, and overact the proposition; and, from being true, as he supposes, he will think it profitable; and, if you warm him either with confidence or opposition, he quickly tells you it is necessary; and, as he loves those who think as he does, so he is ready to hate those who do not; and then, secretly from wishing evil to them, he is apt to believe that evil will come upon them, and that it is just it should; and, by this time, the opinion is troublesome, and puts other men upon their guard against it; and then, while Passion reigns, and Reason is modest and patient, and talks not loud like a storm, Victory is more regarded than Truth, and men call God into the party, and his judgments are used for arguments, and the threatenings of the Scripture are snatched [25/26] up in haste, and men throw arrows, firebrands, and death, and by this time all the world is in an uproar.
All this, and a thousand things more, the English Protestants considering, deny not their communion to any Christian who desires it, and believes the Apostles' creed, and is of the religion of the four First General Councils: they hope well of all that live well; they receive into their bosom all true believers of what Church soever; and for them that err, they instruct them, and then leave them to their liberty to stand or fall before their own Master.—Bp. Jeremy Taylor.
I belong to no party, nor have ever adopted or followed any body's "views;" but desire to live and die in that doctrine which I have received from the beginning, and through the teaching of the Church herself. And so far am I from recognizing the unhappy disposition which prevails to split our inheritance into shreds and tatters, and to receive or excommunicate men in our minds according as they seem to share the views of this or that preacher or writer, measuring truth and falsehood, love and hatred, by such words as High-Church and Low-Church, Puseyite and Evangelical, Papist and Protestant, Judaizers and Erastians, that I do from my heart abhor and detest the use of all these party words, and the tendency which they imply, to measure our brethren by the accidental amount of what seems to us to be their ignorance or their error. I embrace all these parties, as they are called, in my affections, because I will not acknowledge any such distinction of parties at all. Not that I have no definite convictions of truth, and of the doctrine of the Church; but because I have the most unbounded confidence in my fellow-Churchmen and in the Clergy in particular, of every shade and variety of opinion, that they are all truly brethren in principle, as well as in profession; and that the seeming differences, on which so much violence of language and of feeling is misspent, are no real and vital differences between Churchmen at all, but only accidental and temporary differences, according as any [26/27] man has studied more or less than another, or been thrown by circumstances more or less within the reach of influences external to the Church in their origin, and hostile to it, but which have been suffered by Divine Providence for some special purpose, to infect us all more or less, and to involve the Church herself, as it were, in a cloud, without our ever either perceiving or intending to recognize those heretical principles, from which they originally came, or to which they may ultimately tend. For myself I can say, that I have conversed with many Clergymen, of all shades of opinion, and I have never yet found in my life but three individuals who did not make me feel, beyond the possibility of a mistake, that they had in them the same root of attachment to the Church of England as the true Church, and the Church of God in this country, which I have always had myself from my childhood, however much they might seem to differ from one another in their theological language, according to their learning, their experience, and their accidental and pardonable prejudices. As I desire to have all charitable allowance made for me by those with whom I converse, so I cannot express my dislike of that language which alienates and drives into a real development of vital differences those members of the Church, of different shades of opinion, who, by patience and love, and good example, might be strengthened and corrected, if need be, and re-edified together with ourselves. Rather, as many of us as have the same hope, let us bear with one another, that God also may bear with us. Let us remember the lessons of the followers and contemporaries of the Apostles: let us labour all of us together, let us strive together, let us run together, let us suffer together, let us rest together in our graves, let us rise together at the resurrection.—William Palmer (of Magd. Coll. Oxford).