WITHIN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING THE EDUCATION OF THE POOR
IN THE PRINCIPLES OF THE CHURCH.
St. Paul's Churchyard and Waterloo Place.
W. HODGETTS, H. C. LANGBRIDGE, AND B. HALL.
ROMANS x. 2.
THEY HAVE A ZEAL FOR GOD, BUT NOT ACCORDING TO KNOWLEDGE.
THE value and efficiency of zeal depends altogether upon the qualities with which it is accompanied. If it be attended with indiscretion, imprudence, and lack of judgment, it is obvious that it must prove injurious to the object which it would fain promote; and the same is pre-eminently true of it, when combined with want of knowledge. Thus our Lord foretold to His disciples, that the time was coming, “when he who killed them should think that he was doing God service;"' and accordingly St. Paul, before his conversion, being "zealous toward God," "persecuted the Christians unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.'' Herein he afterwards confesses that he acted ignorantly, “verily thinking with himself that he ought to do many things contrary to the Name of Jesus of Nazareth," and so running counter to that very object, the Glory of God, which he had really at heart. In all this he was only a specimen of perhaps the greater part of his countrymen. "I bear them record," says he in the text, “that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge:" and this their zeal led them [3/4] to use their utmost efforts to persecute and destroy from the face of the earth, the religion which the Son of God had come down from Heaven to establish.
It had been well for the Church, if such zeal had been confined to the sons of Israel, and the first ages of the Gospel; but no one, in the slightest degree acquainted with the history of Christianity, can be ignorant that it has existed amongst its professors in almost every age, and been the occasion, though doubtless with some incidental good, of much calamity and sin. And though it shows not itself in like manner as it did among the Jews in the time of St. Paul, yet we must be strangely blind or unobservant, not to discern it in active operation among Christians at the present day. What else, my brethren, can allow good and concientious men, (for such I believe they often are,) to remain in deliberate separation from the Church, to oppose her doctrines and decry her practices, to perpetuate the schisms which have arisen in Christ's body, and prevent the torn portions of His garment from being again woven together in one seamless robe? "They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge."
But it is not only among "them that are without," that such zeal is to be found. Alas! it is to be met with within the Church. There are those, my brethren, who, though in her, are not of her, many of whom we must in charity believe to be "zealous towards God," who yet scruple not to hold and to teach, to profess and to publish, doctrines diametrically opposed to her explicit declarations, and to labour for their dissemination with earnestness and diligence worthy of a better cause. Some of the modes in which this zeal without knowledge is manifested, I purpose to bring before you in this discourse; and I am led to do so on the present occasion, because, [4/5] in the case of those whom I have now in my mind, it has been, and continues to be, directed in a most marked manner against the Society for which I have this day to ask your support. In so doing I feel it necessary to speak plainly, but hope, by God's grace, to guard against speaking bitterly; for bitterness of language, culpable as it is in all places, is more especially so in that where I now stand.
It will, however, be advisable, before proceeding to my immediate object, to give you a slight account of the way in which the peculiar tenets of the party in question first arose amongst us.
You are most of you aware, that, at the time when communion between our Church and the See of Rome was first interrupted, some few of her members, partly from their intercourse with the foreign Reformers, and partly from the revulsion which they felt at the abuses they had experienced under the former system, were desirous to assimilate her as closely as possible, both in doctrine and worship, to the Protestant communities abroad. This feeling was much increased by the residence abroad of many of her clergy during the reign of Queen Mary, some of whom, on their return, used many endeavours to get her moulded after their favourite pattern. Happily, however, these endeavours were ineffectual. Through the mercy of God, she retained throughout, both in her doctrine and discipline, every essential note of a true branch of the Church Catholic, though some of these notes, it must be confessed, were at times lamentably obscured; whilst each of her authoritative enactments tended only to rivet snore firmly, and to display more clearly, her connexion with the Church of primitive times. Thus she became more visibly distinguished from the Protestant bodies on the [5/6] Continent, with whom, at the commencement of her disunion with Rome, she had, to a certain degree, made common cause so that, in a few years, one of her most learned sons could speak of her and them in the following terns: "Our Church, you know, goes upon differing principles from the rest of the reformed; and so, steers her course by another rule than they do. We look after the form, rites, and discipline of Antiquity, and endeavour to bring our own as near as we can to that pattern. We suppose the reformed Churches have departed further therefrom than needed; and so we are not very solicitous to comply with them. Yea, we are jealous of such of our own as we see over-zealously addicted to them; lest it be a sign they prefer them before their mother." [Joseph Mede, April 9, 1635, quoted in the Appendix to Bishop Jebb's Practical Sermons.]
This development, however, of her Catholic character, estranged from her still further the affections of her dissatisfied children, many of whom, though outwardly within her pale, persisted in a course of obstinate disobedience to her regulations, neither teaching as she directed, nor worshipping as she prescribed; whilst some of them actually renounced her authority, separated from her communion, and formed religious societies of their own. At last, adding to the sin of insubordination to the Church, that of rebellion against the State, they succeeded in their attempt to bring her down to the dust; they robbed her sacred edifices of their seemly ornaments, and desecrated them with the sounds of fanaticism and strife; they proscribed the use of her formularies under the severest penalties, and visited her faithful children with the most cruel persecution. By the good Providence of God, however, these unhappy [6/7] times came to an end. The Church was restored to her rightful position, and to the enjoyment of the privileges, spiritual and temporal, which she possessed before. But those who had all along been her enemies, and during her time of weakness and suffering, had taken to themselves those worldly goods which belonged to her, were now anxious to be numbered amongst her members, and so made a final effort to get her formularies altered to suit their own opinions. For this purpose, they alleged the expediency of having "our Liturgy so composed, as to gain upon the judgments and affections of all those who in the substantials of the Protestant religion," as they expressed it, “are of the same persuasion with ourselves: inasmuch as a more firm union and consent of all such, as well in worship as in doctrine, would greatly strengthen the Protestant interest against all those dangers and temptations which our intestine divisions and animosities do expose us unto, from the common adversary." [Dr. Cardwell's History of Conferences on the Book of Common Prayer, p. 305, from which work the following particulars are also derived.] They accordingly presented to the Bishops a long list of particulars, prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer, which they considered objectionable. Thus, amongst other things, they objected to its use being so required as to exclude the use of extempore prayer, to the observance of Lent as a religious fast, to the religious observance of saints'-days, appointed to be kept as holy-days, and their vigils; to the use of various ceremonies, especially wearing the surplice, the sign of the Cross in Holy Baptism, and kneeling at the Holy Communion; to the rubric before the Absolution in the Communion office, which directs the Priest to "stand up and turn himself to the people," alleging that "the Minister turning himself to the people is most convenient throughout the whole ministration;" to the [7/8] Minister being required to deliver the Bread and Wine into the hand of every communicant, and to repeat the words to each one in the singular number; to the use of the word Priest, which they requested might be replaced by Minister; to the address to the congregation after the Baptism of every child, declaring that it is regenerate, which, they said, they "could not in faith say;" to the answer in the Catechism, “In my baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven," which they requested might be expressed, “wherein I was visibly admitted into the number of the members of Christ, the children of God, and the heirs of the kingdom of Heaven;" and to the form of Absolution in the Visitation of the Sick, which they wished to stand, instead of "I absolve thee," "I pronounce thee absolved, if thou dost truly repent and believe." From these few specimens, my brethren, you will readily perceive the nature of the objections urged against our Prayer Book, which objections, however, it is almost needless to say, met with no favour. The Bishops stated in their answer, that "the Church hath been careful to put nothing into the Liturgy but what is either evidently the Word of God, or hath been generally received in the Catholic Church," and that "by those who adhere to Scripture and the Catholic consent of Antiquity, they know not that any part of it hath been questioned." It would detain you too long, were I to state the replies which they gave to all even of those objections which I have now quoted, but one or two of them it may be as well to repeat to you. To the assertion, then, that "the Minister's turning himself to the people is most convenient throughout the whole ministration," they replied that "the Minister's turning to the people is not most [8/9] convenient throughout the whole ministration. When he speaks to them, as in Lessons, Absolutions, and Benedictions, it is convenient that he turn to them. When he speaks for them to God, it is fit that they should all turn another way, as the ancient Church ever did." To the objection against pronouncing every newly baptized child regenerate, they answered that, “seeing that God's sacraments have their effects where the receiver cloth not put any bar against them, (which children cannot do); we may say in faith of every child that is baptized, that it is regenerated by God's Holy Spirit; and the denial of it tends to Anabaptism, and the contempt of this holy sacrament, as nothing worthy, nor material whether it be administered to children or no." They observed, too, that the answer in the Catechism, as it already stood, “is as safe as that which is desired; and more fully expressing the efficacy of the sacrament, according to Gal. iii., “26, 27, where St. Paul proves them all to be children " of God, because they were baptized, and in their baptism had put on Christ:" and that "the form of Absolution" in the Visitation of the Sick, “is more agreeable to the Scriptures than that which they desire, it being said in St. John xx., ‘Whose sins you remit, they are remitted,' not, whose sins you pronounce remitted; and the condition needs not to be expressed, being always necessarily understood." In consequence of this refusal of the Bishops, or rather of the Church herself, to accede to their proposals, (for the Book of Common Prayer as it now stands, was a few months afterwards unanimously adopted by the Convocation of both Provinces), about two thousand Ministers were excluded from her service, and whilst some few of them continued to communicate with her as laymen, the far greater part left her altogether, and exercised the [9/10] functions of the ministry as they could, to societies of men without her pale.
Now I have stated all this, my brethren, in order to show you, that the notions involved in these objections were, for the most part, of foreign growth, and were considered, both when they first originated and long after, as well by those who maintained as by those who opposed them, to be inconsistent with the express declarations of the Anglican Church, so that many who were desirous of exercising the office of the ministry in her communion, felt themselves precluded from so doing by her own formularies; nor would those who had the power, alter those formularies, with regard either to doctrine, discipline, or ceremonies, so as to remove the obstacle which they presented.
There can, therefore, be no doubt as to the mind of the Church of England on these points; and yet we cannot be ignorant that there are many within her pale, yea and ministering at her Altars, who make it their business to oppose, with the most unseemly and violent hostility, the very doctrines and practices which she has thus unequivocally declared to be her own; to which, moreover, they have themselves declared their "unfeigned assent and consent," and solemnly promised to conform. We cannot but be aware that there are many such, who speak of the doctrine of Regeneration in Holy Baptism, which lies at the foundation of all her services, as a "soul-destroying heresy," and that reverence for Catholic Antiquity which she evinces herself, and would fain inculcate on all her members, as one of those corruptions of the Church of Rome which we are bound to eschew; and who denounce in the same manner the doctrines of the Priesthood and of Priestly [10/11] Absolution from sin, and especially that most sacred and comforting one of the Real Presence, in the Holy Eucharist, of our Blessed Saviour's Body and Blood. Nor can we fail to observe, that there are those who manifest the utmost impatience of her formularies which they have professed, it may be, on various occasions, freely to subscribe; who not unfrequently mutilate her services to make them square with their own errors, and who feel as a galling restraint, that legislative act, both of the Church and the State, which requires of the Clergy the universal observance of the Book of Common Prayer. Truly the spirit of Puritanism which was, at the Restoration, cast out of our Church, has found its way back, and gained a habitation therein, to the incalculable injury of thousands of her members What is it but this spirit--the same which animated the authors of those objections to our formularies which I have just laid before you--which leads men, who call themselves her members, to resort for unauthorized, and perhaps extempore prayer to a school room or a private dwelling, rather than to repair, as the rubric directs, to the House of God, there to "call upon Him in the voice of His Church;" I which prompts them to unite, for religious purposes, with those abroad whom she in no way recognizes as in communion with herself, and with those at home whom she declares "excommunicated," and not to be admitted to partake in her privileges till after their express renunciation of their "wicked errors;" [See the first 12 of the Canons of 1603.] which gives vent to the idle clamour against forms and ceremonies with which we are so frequently [11/12] stunned, and denounces as a "Papist" every one, whether clergyman or layman, who makes it his endeavour to live and act only in obedience to her rules; which manifests its bitter hostility even to the garb which she has appointed for her Ministers when engaged in her public service, and recently stirred up so many both of the clergy and laity to resist the endeavours of those of her rulers, who strove only to enforce a due compliance with what she prescribes.
You see, then, my brethren, how much the principles and practices which I have thus detailed to you, are at variance with those of the English Church, and how impossible it accordingly is, for any by whom they are professed and followed, to be her true and faithful members. And yet we know how widely they prevail amongst us, and with what activity,--yea, with what dishonesty,--their favourers are now availing themselves of their external connexion with the Church as her members and ministers, to promote within her their farther. extension. In so doing, some of them, I have no doubt, however difficult it may be to explain it, are really influenced by a zeal for God, though not according to knowledge, most mistakenly fancying that they are thereby advancing the cause of His Truth and the interests of His Kingdom; whilst many, I doubt as little, are actuated only by a zeal for themselves and their own party. Some of the methods by which they have been, and are still, attempting the accomplishment of their mischevious and heretical purposes, both at home and abroad, I will briefly set before you.
To say nothing, then, of the suspicion and distrust with which, through the medium of magazines and reviews, of pamphlets and newspapers, of sermons from the pulpit and speeches from the platform, they seek to [12/13] inspire our people against the principles of the Church, and those of her pastors who preach her doctrines most faithfully and celebrate her services most correctly,--to say nothing of this, it is one of the plans of the leaders of this party, in which they have succeeded to a lamentable extent, to get into their own hands the livings of large and important places, and by means of a self-elected body of trustees, to secure to them, as far as can be calculated upon, the perpetual appointment of such clergymen only, as will preach and act according to their own heretical notions. By the adoption of this method, they have indeed shown themselves "wise in their generation." Persons not well instructed in the real tenets of the Church, but at the same time disposed to regard her with reverence, naturally receive, as accordant with her teaching, whatever they hear from those invested with the character of her ministers; and so many thousands, I doubt not, have been "corrupted from the simplicity of the truth," and taught, apparently under her authority, a far different Gospel from that which has ever been received by her. But not content with the appointment of these Incumbents, the same party have established a Society, to which they have prefixed the name of the Church, for the diffusion of their principles by means of Curates and Lay-readers, the appointment and continuance of whom rest with a Committee, of whom a large portion are laymen. [The Church Pastoral Aid Society.] Thus an Incumbent may have selected a Curate, and the Bishop may have approved him, but unless his religious views meet also with the approbation of this Committee, who are in general pretty strict in their enquiries, they will allow nothing for his support; or should his proceedings at any time after his appointment, though perfectly satisfactory to both the Incumbent and the Bishop, not accord with their ideas, [13/14] the aid which has been granted will be withdrawn; and thus, though the funds of the Society are ostensibly collected for the purpose of bringing the neglected masses of the population under the pastoral supervision of the Church, neither clergyman nor layman, who would frame his instructions simply as the Church directs, would have any chance of being employed through its instrumentality. On the same principles, a similarly constituted Society, also under the name of the Church, was formed some years ago, for the Conversion of the Heathen to Christianity, one of whose missionaries, within the last few years, in spite of the remonstrances of his Bishop, was actually recalled from India by the Committee in London, because the report they had received of his teaching did not square with their notions of the true preaching of the Gospel: [The Church Missionary Society. The Rev. W. T. Humphrey, in 1841.] and at the present hour this same Society is, for its own purposes, maintaining an open alliance with those schismatical, and in some instances excommunicated, Priests in Scotland, who have, without any just reason, rebelled against their Bishops, and set up conventicles in defiance of their authority--a proceeding on the part of the Society, not only extremely sinful in itself, but also in direct violation of the 33rd. Article of our Church, which treats "of excommunicate Persons, and how they are to be avoided." Another Society [The Colonial Church Society, against which the Bishop of Nova Scotia cautioned his Clergy in an excellent circular letter, dated April 15, 1841, which may be found in the British Magazine, vol. xx. p. 200. To this the Committee published a very feeble reply, which may also be found in the same volume, p. 225.] has been established more recently for the employment of Clergymen and Catechists in the Colonies, and another [Church of England Society for Educating the Poor of Newfoundland and the Colonies.] [14/15] for the founding, in those parts, of Schools and providing of schoolmasters; in connexion with neither of which, however, would any Clergyman, Catechist, or Schoolmaster, either obtain or retain employment, unless his principles agreed with those of the party in question: whilst another is in progress of formation,--and efforts are even now being made in its favour in this very town,--in opposition to the Society for which I have now to ask your assistance, for training up Schoolmasters and Schoolmistresses of the same erroneous principles, at home. [Its Training Institution is to be fixed at Cheltenham.]
These, my brethren, are some of the means which they are now employing with such determined energy and zeal, in order to puritanize our Church, to divest her of her Catholic character and bring her down to the level of a Protestant sect, to strip her of the glorious clothing which is her own, as the King's Daughter and the Lamb's Wife, and put upon her the mean attire of a captive handmaiden, if not the unseemly and distasteful garb of a harlot. By these means are they endeavouring to propagate, as under her authority, both at home and abroad, doctrines which she has again and again rejected with indignation: to infuse into the minds of the old and the young, her own children and strangers, mingled, it is true, in some measure, with the bread of life and the milk of the word, of which, however, she would have them partake in all their purity, the poison of heresy, and the vain fancies of men. Truly if this be "a zeal for God," it is a zeal "not according to knowledge"!
I have endeavoured to set before you the character of this party in its true light, in order to put you on [15/16] your guard against lending any support to them or their plans. They bring before you their Societies as the means of attaining objects to which no good Christian can be indifferent. The Conversion of the Heathen, the Christian Education of the Young, the providing our hitherto neglected countrymen, both in our own land and in our foreign possessions, with the blessings of Pastoral ministration and oversight--what objects can be more important and laudable? and this consideration, I doubt not, induces many, without further enquiry, to lend a helping band to the Societies which profess them. But, my brethren, it becomes us, in each case, to ascertain, both that the object is actually good, and the means unexceptionable whereby it is sought to be accomplished; and I think I have shown you, in these cases, that whilst the objects really in view are such as, if carried into effect, would corrupt our Church's character, the means by which they are aimed at, are altogether inconsistent with her order and discipline. Well, then, may we exclaim with regard to those concerned in them, “O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united"!
But whilst I thus exhort you, as you love your Church, and are anxious that she should be maintained in her integrity, to afford every discountenance to these efforts of zeal without knowledge, let me at the same time urge you, as you would answer before God for the use you are making of the talents He has entrusted to you, to manifest yourselves a zeal "according to knowledge," and to support, to the extent of your power, every attempt to promote His glory, which is conducted after the same rule. Thus only can you rightly perform [16/17] the work which He has given you to do," and hope to be instrumental in counteracting the unhappy effects of that zeal to which knowledge is wanting. And if in this you wish to know how to proceed, take for your guide the Church, and where she leads fear not to follow. For this purpose make yourselves well acquainted with her tenets and constitution as they are contained in her Book of Common Prayer, not merely that part of it which forms the regular service of the Sunday and weekday, but the Catechism and Occasional Offices, especially those of Baptism and Confirmation, with "the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons." You will learn from these, what is her true doctrine, which, of course, should alone be taught in any quarter that claims connexion with her, and you will also find that her rightful governors are the Bishops, to whom therefore, not as subscribers to its funds, but as bearing the office to which, under God, it especially belongs to provide for her welfare and extension, the proceedings of every religious Society should be subject. [See Dr. Hook's Church Dictionary, under the word Societies.] Now there are Societies,--all, with one exception, far older than those with whose erroneous constitution and principles I have endeavoured to make you acquainted,--having in view the very objects professed by them; in strict connexion with the Church, and carried on in accordance with her real principles, to which I would earnestly entreat you, according to your ability, to afford your zealous support. Amongst these, whether we consider the importance of its object, the means whereby it seeks its accomplishment, or the zeal and activity with which those means are employed, none is more deserving of the confidence and aid of every true member of our Communion, than the National Society for the Education of the Poor in the principles of the [17/18] Church. I need not say any thing on the importance of its object, or the duty of assisting to promote it, as I have so recently addressed you on these points, in pleading the cause of our own Schools: but I cannot forbear to observe that, by its various establishments for the instruction and training of Schoolmasters and Schoolmistresses, by the grants which it makes towards the erection of Schoolrooms in places where the whole sum is unable to be raised from among the inhabitants, and by the means which it affords to such schools as require it, for improving their order and discipline through its Organising Masters, it has wrought, and continues to work, most signal benefit throughout the land. It is true, as I have already stated, that various unworthy and wicked attempts have been made by certain organs of the party against which I have cautioned you, of whom, in things that concern the Church, it may be generally said that "their praise is scandal, and their scandal praise," to excite against this Society, in the minds of those to whom it looks for support, feelings of prejudice and mistrust, as though it inculcated heterodoxy of doctrine and encouraged superstition in worship; [See a vile little pamphlet, published by Seeleys, containing articles re-printed from the Record; and an excellent Letter to the Bishop of London, in reply, by Cyril William Page, M.A., Perpetual Curate of Christ Church, Westminster.] and these have been so far successful as to lead to the projected establishment of a rival Society on the principles of Puritanism; but I am quite sure that no well informed member of our Church could read even the publications wherein such charges are attempted to be substantiated, without perceiving that the instruction complained of is most sound and scriptural, and the form of worship observed in the Churches where the Teachers and Children principally attend, none other than what [18/19] is prescribed or sanctioned by the Church. But in reply to all such charges, it will be sufficient to say, that the Society enjoys the patronage and support of, I believe, all the Bishops, who have, from time to time, expressed a warm interest in its efforts and prosperity: while in support of its claims, it is obvious to remark, that, however the Christian Education of our poor may fall short of what could be wished, it would, but for the exertions of this Society, have been in a far lower condition than it now is; and it is moreover principally owing to the Society's firm maintenance of the Church's right to the uncontrolled exercise of her office as the Instructor of all her members, that the aid of the State has been proffered to her for carrying on her work amongst the children of the poor, on conditions by which that right will not be interfered with.
I cannot doubt that I have now said enough to enlist, in behalf of the National Society, both your heartfelt sympathy and your active benevolence; but I must add, that so many and great are the demands upon its resources, that it has felt constrained, in reliance upon the result of the present Collections under the Queen's Letter, to pledge itself to the amount of £12,000. beyond what it has in hand. Indeed, it has, at different times, contributed between five and six thousand pounds to the erection of Schools in this town alone, and it may be safely said, that the extent of its usefulness is limited only by the amount of its funds.
I trust, therefore, my brethren that to such a Society you will now be disposed to contribute, to your power, yea, and to what you may fancy is beyond your power. If necessary, think it not much to deny yourself some needless luxury in which you would like to indulge,--an article of finery, an evening's amusement, or a party of [19/20] pleasure,--that you may aid to a greater extent, in affording instruction to the lambs of Christ's fold. Remember, there cannot be true charity without self-denial. It is not charity to give merely what we can spare without missing, for this is to "offer unto the Lord our God of that which Moth cost us nothing." The shilling, or half-crown, or sovereign, which we have hitherto been accustomed to give at such times, must by many of us, be doubled or trebled, or perhaps increased manifold more, if we would render an offering acceptable to God, and adequate to what the occasion demands. But let no one who cannot give much, abstain on that ground from giving at all; for it is not the actual, but the relative amount, of our contribution to which the Lord has respect. We read how in the days of His Flesh He "sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury, and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And He called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living." "If then, thou hast much, give plenteously: if thou hast little, do thy diligence gladly to give of that little: for so gatherest thou thyself a good reward in the day of necessity;" and at the same time rejoice in the opportunity thus afforded you of testifying, in some small degree, your love and gratitude to Him, who gave for you His Only begotten Son.