OF CHRIST'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE,
MINISTER OF THE CHAPEL.
St. Paul's Church Yard and Waterloo Place.
W. HODGETTS, H. C. LANGBRIDGE, AND B. HALL.
PSALM xxxvii. 3. Put thou thy trust in the Lord, and be doing good: dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
THIS advice, though never unseasonable, is especially appropriate in times of trial and perplexity. It directs us as to the course we must pursue, if we would have the guidance and blessing of Almighty God, by which alone we can overcome the difficulties of our earthly pilgrimage, and "so pass through things temporal, as finally to lose not the things eternal." [Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity] Few, at some period or other, are without such trials. Circumstances come upon men, in which they know not how to act for the best; and, perhaps, there are none around them, to whom they can have recourse for aid and direction. But, however this may be, it becomes them, in such cases, to follow the advice of the Royal Preacher, which is almost the same as that of the Psalmist before us: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy steps." [Proverbs iii. 5, 6.]
It appears to me, my brethren, that the words of the text apply very forcibly to our own religious position at the present time. We are surrounded by a multitude of sects and communions, holding the most opposite doctrines, and following the most various rites and modes of worship. Of these, some would lead us away in one direction, teaching us that the Church to which we belong forms no part of the Body of Christ, and possesses no interest in the promise of His perpetual Presence; and others in the opposite, alleging that she has corrupted the simplicity of the Gospel, and retains no longer the purity of the faith. And there are those, who have been influenced, by one or other of these representations, to go out from amongst us; whilst others, who yet remain, have become restless and uneasy, afraid to go, yet not satisfied to stay, and on the watch, as it were, to discern elsewhere, privileges which they fancy they have not here. Now it shall be my endeavour, in this discourse, to show, that there are sufficient grounds for all members of the Church of England, to follow St. Paul's direction, and "abide with God, in that calling, wherein they are called, (1 Cor. vii. 24)--that, in spite of all discouragements, if they will only "dwell in the land, putting their trust in the Lord, and doing good, verily they shall be fed"--fed with "the sincere milk of the word"--fed with the Body and Blood of their Incarnate Saviour--fed, so as to grow up "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." (Ephes. iv. 13.) In doing this, however, I am not about to speak of our Church, as though she were free from imperfection, to vaunt of her purity, and set her forth as rich, and increased with goods, and having need of nothing;" or to draw any proud and insulting comparison between her and other Churches. (Rev. iii. 17.) We have heard already too much of such language as this, of which the effect has only been to fill us, as a Church, with a spirit of pride, to render us blind to our manifold deficiencies and abuses, and to make us "trust in ourselves that we are righteous, and to despise others." (St. Luke, xviii. 9.) It will, on the contrary, be my simple endeavour, to show that she has with her the Presence of Christ, that she has in her the means of salvation; and if only this can be shown, then must it be the duty of all her members to remain faithful to her, thankful for the blessings which they have received through her, and obedient to the spiritual rulers whom God has set over them within her.
Now, surely, her very existence amongst us, in her present condition, affords, at least, a presumption of all this. Whatever were the consequences of what we call the Reformation, whether it brought with it unmixed good, as some would maintain; or unmixed evil, as others; or a mixture of good and evil, as others; we may infer, from the good hand of our God upon her ever since, from the condition in which we see her at present, that it altered not her essential character, but left her in possession of all the necessary marks and powers of a Church--a living member of the One Catholic Body. Ever since that event, has she been beset by open enemies from without, or by false friends within, who either ignorantly, or of avowed purpose, have sought her destruction. At one time--I mean in the Great Rebellion--she was, to all appearance, totally overthrown; her clergy, plundered and persecuted, cast out from house and home, and forbidden, under the severest penalties to discharge any holy function; her Service Book, not allowed to be used even in private. But from this state she was restored to her former position, and with the increased love of her children, who had learnt to value her care the more highly, from having been deprived of it. Again, attempts have been made, more than once, to disfigure her formularies by the introduction of heresy, or the suppression of vital truth; but from all these has she been most remarkably preserved. Statesmen, too, have often regarded her as a mere political institution, have endeavoured to use her for their own worldly and selfish ends, and have exerted what power they possessed, to cripple her energy, and render her incapable of resistance. Still, in the worst of times, she has never altogether lost sight of her high and holy character, as the institution of Christ; and never did she feel more deeply than now, her possession of a ghostly authority, "such as neither prince nor potentate, king nor Caesar, on earth can give." (Hooker). A spirit of lukewarmness has at times come upon her, and made her too forgetful of the work that was given her to do, disposed her to lean upon an arm of flesh, to pride herself upon her connexion with the State, to look up for support to the great ones of the earth. But from all this has she been aroused, either by the voice of her own children, the rivalry of hostile sects, or the unexpected course of popular feeling and political events. We, most of us, remember, my brethren, the time when the powers of the world seem disposed to array themselves against her and cast her from them--when disaffection, or at least indifference, towards her was almost a necessary qualification for civil, and even ecclesiastical, advancement--when her enemies raised aloud the cry, "Down with her, down with her, even to the ground," and her chief pastors could scarcely walk the streets without being exposed to insult and danger. And yet, from that very time, when, in a worldly view, all things seemed against her, has she appeared to put on additional strength, and with redoubled zeal and energy, go forth to her work, conquering and to conquer. Now in all this, I cannot but see strong marks of God's gracious care and protection, such as, were she not really a Church, a portion of that building, founded upon a rock, against which our Lord has promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail, it would be difficult, or impossible to account for. "Whilst the Protestant bodies, whether at home or abroad, which became dissevered from the rest of Christendom, at the same time with herself, or later, but retained not, like her, the grace of an Apostolical Ministry, have all fallen more or less into heresy, nay, some into positive scepticism or infidelity--whilst they have relapsed into deadness, or dwindled into insignificance, our Church has remained in doctrine what she was then left; nor did she ever display more evident tokens of life, more vigour and energy in the practice of good works, than at the present hour.
Thus, to take one or two instances out of many. Look at her endeavours to bring the whole population within the sphere of her influence, and provide them with the means of publicly worshipping God. We can, all of us, remember the time, when the consecration of a Church was a very rare and uncommon occurrence: now, however, scarcely a week passes, in which we do not read or hear of several churches being solemnly set apart to our Maker's service; whilst, within the last few years, zealous attempts have been made, and are still making, to increase the number of clergy also. Consider, again, her increased attention to the religious education of the young, especially of the poorer class. Though this point has, for a long period, engaged the consideration of many of her individual members, yet it is but a few years ago, that the Church herself can be said to have taken it up, at least on any extended scale; but now, she is, every year, increasing her efforts to train up, in accordance with her own principles, the children of all classes--to impart to them not only the knowledge which is useful for this world, but that which maketh wise unto salvation. Such are her works at home; and what is she doing abroad, or doing at home for those who are abroad? Why here, my brethren, whether we consider her endeavours to continue to the inhabitants of our colonies, the religious advantages to which they have been accustomed in their mother country, or her efforts to impart to the heathen, a knowledge of "the unsearchable riches of Christ," we have abundant reason for thankfulness and encouragement. Whilst, thirty years ago, we had, in our foreign possessions, but two bishops, we have now seventeen, and their number is being every year added to. Clergymen, catechists, and schoolmasters, are continually leaving our shores to labour in distant climes; and at this very time, through the pious munificence of a few members of our Church, a college is in the course of formation, to bear the name of him to whom under God, our Saxon forefathers were indebted for their first knowledge of the Gospel, and connected with him by its very locality, for the education of men, whose work it shall be to go forth, as ho did, for the conversion of those, who now sit in darkness and the shadow of death. (It is to be erected on the ruins of the ancient Abbey of St Augustine, cat Canterbury.) And what are the fruits of these labours, my brethren? Let one single fact be taken as a specimen. In the diocese of Madras, the inhabitants of ninety-six villages, in the early part of last year, simultaneously turned away from the superstitions in which they had been brought up, "cast their idols to the moles and to the bats," and sought admission into the Church of the living God. Surely, if God were not with our Church, her exertions would not be blessed with such fruits as these, and if He is with her, it cannot be otherwise than safe for us to abide still under her shadow.
It is also worthy of observation, that the Divine protection and favour towards the Church in Scotland, and in the United States of America, with both which our own is in full communion, and which may, therefore, in the question before us, be considered as one with herself--I say, it is worthy of remark, that the favour and protection of God towards these Churches, appear equally, or even more, evident, than towards ourselves. The Church in America, which, twenty-three years ago, had only nine Bishops, has now six-and-twenty; has nearly quadrupled her number of clergy, within the same time; whilst, during a period, in which the inhabitants of the country were but doubled, her members were increased four-fold; thus advancing with twice the rapidity of the population among whom she is placed. And the Church in Scotland, after having, for a long period, faithfully witnessed for the Truth, in obscurity, poverty, and persecution, such as, were she only a human society, would, doubtless, have brought her to nothing, has now lifted up her head, is calling attention to her distinctive principles, and receiving into her communion, many who have been taught to regard her with suspicion or hatred. These cases, my brethren, are surely worthy of attention, as supplying an answer to those who say, (though it is difficult to understand how it can be said by any acquainted with the events of the last fifteen years,) that our Church is indebted for her efficiency to the support of the State--to her existence, in short, as an Establishment. Now, in neither Scotland nor America does she enjoy this pre-eminence. In the former country, another religious body possesses the privileges of the Establishment, whilst the Church occupies but the same civil position as any of the sects amongst ourselves; and in the latter, she is placed simply on the same footing as the various denominations by which she is surrounded, no distinction of a civil nature being possessed by one above the rest.
Such, then, are the tokens, which may be seen and read of all men, of the gracious favour and protection of Almighty God vouchsafed to our Church. But as we cannot fathom the depths of His Providence, nor certainly know why Tie does this or that, any outward tokens, taken by themselves, might prove vain and fallacious' Let us observe, then, for what purposes the Church Catholic was founded and established, and see how these are fulfilled by our own Church. It was, that she might be the "pillar and ground of the Truth;" the instrument of our being purified unto Christ Jesus, through His own Blood, a peculiar people, zealous of good works; the ark, in which we might safely "pass over the waves of this troublesome world, and finally come to the land of everlasting life." (Office of Baptism.) How, then, does our own Church fulfil these all-important objects? What helps does she afford to the attainment of a sound belief, remission of sins, and holiness of life? What are the means of salvation, which her members may find within her pale?
"We have" within her, says a holy Bishop, who lived in times of trial and persecution, when many were tempted to fall away from her; "we have the Word of God, the Faith of the Apostles, the Creeds of the Primitive Church, the Articles of the four first General Councils, a holy Liturgy, excellent prayers, perfect Sacraments, faith and repentance, the Ten Commandments, and the sermons of Christ, and all the precepts and counsels of the Gospel; we teach the necessity of good works, and require and strictly exact the severity of a holy life; we live in obedience to God,"--(would that we could all say this, my brethren!)--"and are ready to die for Him, and do so when he requires us so to do; we speak honour of His most holy Name, we worship Him at the mention of His Name; we confess His attributes, we love His servants, we pray for all men, we love all Christians, even our most erring brethren, we confess our sins to God, and to our brethren whom we have offended, and to God's Ministers, in cases of scandal or of a troubled conscience; we communicate often; we are enjoined to receive the Holy Sacrament thrice every year at least; our priests absolve the penitent, our bishops ordain priests, [and deacons,] and confirm baptized persons, and bless their people, and intercede for them; and what can here be wanting unto salvation?" (Bp. Jeremy Taylor.)
"As to the Catholic customs," says another Bishop, who lived at the same time with the former, "our Church, (so far is she from, the love of innovation,) professeth all reverence and respect unto them. Upon this score, she still observes all the great and ancient festivals of the Church, with great solemnity; viz. the feasts of the Nativity, Circumcision, passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Saviour the descent of the Holy Ghost, or the Feast of Pentecost, &c. she still honours the memory of the Holy Apostles, Saints, and Martyrs, and hath days wherein to express this, and to bless God for them, and propound their virtues to the imitation of her sons. The ancient fasts of the Church she hath not rejected; and, therefore, because she finds a Lent, or solemn fast, before the great festival of Easter, presently after the Apostles, universally observed (though with a considerable variety, as to the number of days, and the hours of abstinence on those days) in the Church God, she recommends the same observation to her sons, in the full number of forty days, to be kept as days of stricter temperance, and prayer too, by all those whose health, and other circumstances will permit them to undertake it. She still observes the fasts of the four seasons, or Ember weeks. She still recommends the two weekly stations of the primitive Church to the observation of her sons, Wednesday and Friday, distinguishing them from other days of the week, by the more solemn and penitential office of the Litany. And in the table of the fasts to be observed, all Fridays in the year, except Christmas Day, are expressly mentioned." (Bp. Bull.)
We see here the means which our Church provides for our soundness in the faith, our exercise of penitence and self-discipline, our continual advancement in virtue and godliness and who shall say that they are insufficient? Has she not, by them, nerved an Archbishop and a King, to undergo, in her behalf, with the most exemplary piety and patience, a long course of indignities and sufferings, and at last to die the death of Martyrs? Has she not nourished and brought up many, whose holy writings and holy lives have edified all to whom they have become known? Hooker, and Andrewes, and Herbert, and Ferrar, and Taylor, and Hammond, and Ken, and Kettlewell, and Wilson, and Nelson--would not these, and many others, bishops, priests, deacons, and laymen, have been had in honour for their sanctity, in whatever portion of the Catholic Church they might have been placed? (In connexion with this subject, see also two beautiful and edifying little volumes, published by Burns, "Lives of English Churchwomen," and "A Memorial of Eliza-----.") And can we doubt, my brethren, that there are others, a countless multitude, many of whom, perhaps, were never "heard of half a mile from home," (Cowper) whom God has, through her teaching and worship, her Sacraments and rites, "made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light," and brought to "the fruition of His glorious Godhead? (Collect of the Epiphany) Nay, arc there not those at this time--we trust, a goodly number--whom He has stirred up and supported, through her ordinances, to "follow after holiness," as the one thing needful, to strive continually to be perfect, as He Himself is perfect? Do we not see within her, instances of zeal and charity, of self-denial and alms giving, of the most humble and unobtrusive character, sufficient almost, of themselves, to warrant us to conclude "that God cannot be wanting to them in doctrine, to whom He is so gracious in life?" (George Herbert.) And from all these considerations, can we doubt of His Presence in our Church? Can we hesitate to believe, that she has within her, all necessary (helps for the attainment of salvation? And if so, is it not our duty, in spite of all trials and discouragements, to abide, in patience and thankfulness, where God has placed us, and fulfil there the work, whatever it may be, which He has given us to do?
It may, however, be said, and God forbid that any should wish to deny it, that there are to be found good and holy men, in religious societies which we believe to be external to the Catholic Church; but as these, by our own confession, afford no proof of the approbation of God vouchsafed to them as societies, and no sufficient reason for the continuance within them of their other members, we can infer nothing of the kind with regard to our own Church, from the examples of holiness to be met with in her. But, my brethren, the cases are so dissimilar, that we cannot argue from the one to the other. The members of the various sects amongst us, would not themselves attribute to their respective societies, any divine character or authority. They look upon them but as voluntary associations of individuals, who profess to hold such and such doctrines, and observe such and such practices, not because they have been so held and observed from the beginning, or have, attached to them, any promise of God's grace, but because they commend themselves to the private judgment or taste of each one. To them a sermon is the same thing, by whomsoever preached, a prayer of the same efficacy by whomsoever offered up, the Holy Eucharist, an edifying rite, calculated to excite holy thoughts, (and it is looked upon as no more,) by whomsoever celebrated but the notion of grace or pardon being supernaturally dispensed through the ministrations of persons set apart to their office in a particular way--this they altogether repudiate. Those, therefore, among them, who have attained any measure of holiness, have done so, rather as individual Christians, than as members of any religious communion, and under such disadvantages, as in some sort to render them illustrations of the truth, declared by St. Peter, that "God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation, he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is accepted of Him." Such, however, is not the case with the holy men, who have grown up under the system of the Church of England. They look to their Baptism, as to the source and fountain of their spiritual life; to their Confirmation, as that whereby they were strengthened with the seven-fold gifts of the Spirit, to fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil; to the Holy Eucharist, as that gift of the Flesh and Blood of the Son of man, whereby they dwell in Him and He in them; to the priest's Absolution, as the act and message, whereby, if penitent, they receive pardon from Almighty God; and to his Benediction, as that, whereby, if they are worthy, the peace of God resteth upon them. In short, whilst the others would refer whatever goodness they possess to their souls' immediate communion with the Throne of Grace, these, though neither neglecting nor undervaluing any private devotion, have attained their holiness as members of the Church, and would attribute whatever is good in them, in the first place, to their reception and use of those gifts of God, with which she has been entrusted. The case, therefore, of the former, affords no valid objection to that view of our Church's claims, which I have now taken; and I may add, that an evident difference may be generally remarked in the tone and degree of their piety, from that, which, besides having recourse to all the means of improvement within their reach, looks, for its chief support and nourishment, to the Sacraments and Ordinances ministered by the Church. (I have heard it remarked by dissenters themselves, that when members of the Church are pious, they are generally more so, than those who belong to their own Societies.)
But of this enough. Let me, in conclusion, my brethren, express my hope, that the considerations I have now brought before you, will be sufficient to establish you in the assurance, that the Church in which God has fixed your lot, is really entitled to your confidence and dutiful affection. We live, as I have said already, in times of trial and perplexity. Differences of opinion, even on subjects of the last importance, prevail amongst us to an alarming degree; whilst the debate and opposition, the rancour and intolerance, to which they have given rise, have driven from our borders, many whom we could ill afford to lose, and forced them to go in quest of peace and satisfaction, elsewhere. These things cannot but occasion difficulty and discouragement to many even of the clergy: how much more, therefore, it is to be feared, to some of you, my brethren, who have a right to look up to your pastors for guidance and direction. Now, in such circumstances, most seasonable and appropriate is the advice of the text. "Put thou thy trust in the Lord, and be doing good: dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed." Let us avoid, then, all comparison of other Churches with our own: be they better, or be they worse, it does not concern us. God has placed us where we are, and possessing, as we do, all things necessary for salvation, here it is our duty to remain. But let us seek to strengthen our confidence in our Church, by considering all that God has done for her; lot us turn our eyes to the evident tokens of His Presence, with which He has favoured her; and let us devoutly use all the privileges that she affords, and, so doing, go on in the calm and quiet discharge of our every day duties. If we stop short of this, we shall have no reason to wonder, no cause to complain, should we, at any time, feel distressed and unsettled; but if, on the contrary, we attend diligently her services, communicate regularly at her altars, keep her fasts, observe her festivals, obey her injunctions, and, in times of spiritual sadness or difficulty, open our grief to some one of her ministers, in whose learning and discretion we have confidence, then our feet, we need not doubt, will be directed into the way of peace, our souls will be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and from a thankful sense of our privileges, so far beyond what we deserve, we shall confess, with St. Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration, "Lord, it is for us to be here!"