THE purpose of the present Essay is that of submitting to the consideration of our Spiritual governors, and of the Church at large, three distinct points of inquiry:--
First, What is the distinctive character of the Diaconate, as it constitutes the third Order of Ministry in the Church of England?
Secondly, Whether the Order, supposing it to consist of a class of men under different obligations, and with different duties from those which belong to the Presbyterate, has a real, practical, and specific existence in our Church?
Thirdly, Whether such an order of men, or, at least, the performance of such public duties, as the Service for the Ordination of Deacons contemplates, does not appear to be now required, as the most effective means of supplying the wants of our Church in the present condition of her revenues, and with a population increasing in an unexampled degree?
I may, however, he permitted, before entering fully into the proposed inquiry, to state the circumstances, which originally led me to form those conclusions respecting the nature of the ministerial office, which I would now submit for consideration.
Twenty-five years have elapsed, since, upon the consecration of the present Bishop of London to the episcopal office as Bishop of Chester, I had the honour to be appointed his Lordship's examining chaplain, and was called upon, in virtue of that office, to assist his Lordship in the arduous duty of ascertaining the qualifications of those who were candidates for admission to Holy Orders. For sixteen years successively, I was constantly engaged, not only in examinations of the candidates in the Ember Weeks, but also in directing them in their studies, and advising them upon the duties which would be required of them, in the places to which they would be appointed. Amidst the, candidates with whom I was thus brought into contact, a very large number were persons sent forth, either by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, or by the Church Missionary Society; and it is to me a subject of grateful recollection, that there hardly exists a colony in our empire, or a mission to the heathen, the ecclesiastical ministrations of which are not conducted by persons, with many of whom I have had the most interesting conversations upon the nature of that field of duty to which they had been called. It was impossible to be thus occupied in preparing persons for their admission to the Order of Deacons, and examining them a second time on their admission to the Priesthood, without having the separate existence of these two Orders of our Ministry continually presented to my mind, and considering the distinct nature of their duties and obligations; and at one time I had committed my thoughts to paper, in an Essay on the Distinctive Character of the Three Orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, when circumstances occurred which induced me to desist from publishing what I had written, and to reserve the discussion of the subject for some future period. That period seems now to have arrived. The Government of the country has taken into consideration the necessity of giving still greater facilities for the subdivision of parishes, and the multiplication of separate Incumbencies. The building of churches in every part of the kingdom bespeaks a demand for increased extension of the Christian Ministry, whilst the employment of a new order of men in populous parishes, under the denomination of Scripture Readers, indicates a want so pressing, as hardly to allow the opportunity of considering, whether the method which is adopted for its supply, is really that which the Church is authorized to adopt. I feel as sensibly as the most ardent of my brethren, the necessity of a full and adequate extension of the Christian Ministry: every Visiting Society which is established, every Scripture Reader who is employed, is a fresh argument increasing my conviction of this necessity; every School which is opened, every Sunday class which is formed, shows me that the labours of the Incumbent and Curates of the parish are greater than there are hours in the day to perform, and than the bodily strength of man can bear: nor does the supply of that small body of, men, called into existence by the efforts of the Additional Curates' Fund, and the Church Pastoral Aid Society, diminish the difficulty in which the Church is placed; on the contrary, the more active are the exertions of any minister who has charge of a populous parish, and the larger ,is the number of his Curates, the more does the demand for spiritual instruction increase, and the more evident does the extent of spiritual destitution in the parish become.
The chief object of the present Essay is, that of submitting to the serious consideration of the governors of our Church, whether the extension of the services of the Diaconate, according to the exact model pourtrayed in our Service for the Ordination of Deacons, is not the best and most effectual method of increasing the efficiency of the Christian Ministry, so as to meet the wants of our Church. Every where around me, whether I converse with my brethren of all ranks and stations in the Church, or whether I look at the resolutions and objects of recently formed associations, I find the want of this third Order of our Church openly avowed. If apology were required for my boldness in venturing to press for consideration a measure so awfully interesting and important in its consequences, as the extension of the Diaconate in a degree proportionate to the wants of the Church, I trust that the station to which it has pleased God to call me, will be ample excuse, and that it will be admitted, that if any one ought to advocate the efficacy of an Order of Deacons, that duty surely belongs to one, whose title denotes a primacy amongst the Deacons, in the most populous Protestant city in the world.
I proceed now to inquire, What is the specific character of the Diaconate, as constituting the third Order of the Christian Ministry in the Church of England?
Our Church, in the preface to her Ordinal, has declared, that "it is evident unto all men diligently reading the Holy Scriptures and ancient authors, that, from the Apostles' time, there have been three orders of ministers in Christ's Church, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons." The relation in which these Orders stand to each other, or to the Church at large, in respect of authority, and jurisdiction, and legal qualifications for holding their offices, must be learned from other sources; but the differences of the duties which are undertaken, of the promises made, and of the charge imposed upon them, can be learned only from the Ordination services; and that the three Orders have duties of a different kind imposed upon each, of them; and that the members of those orders are under distinct obligations, correspondent to the distinct nature of their duties, will be admitted by all who consent to this fundamental principle, as directing, the conduct of the Deacon, the Priest, or the Bishop, "That the duties to which, he is called, and the authority with which he is invested, are only those specific duties and that authority which the words of each service imply, and which the terms of admission to the office import." Upon the nature of the Episcopal duties it would be out of place here to treat; it is sufficient for my present purpose to state in what particulars the duties of the Deacon and the Presbyter consist, and how they differ from each other.
To begin, first, with the duties of the Deacons. These duties are evidently of two kinds, Ecclesiastical and Temporal. Their Ecclesiastical ministrations are all public in their character: "to assist the Priest in the divine service, specially in the Holy Communion and in the distribution thereof; to read Holy Scriptures and Homilies in the Church to the people there assembled; to instruct the youth in the Catechism; to baptize infants in the absence of the Priest; to preach, if admitted thereto by the Bishop himself."
The Temporal ministrations of the Deacons are, "to search for the sick, poor, and impotent people of the parish, and to intimate their estates, names, and places where they dwell to the Curate" (who has the cure of souls), "that by his exhortation they may be relieved," &c.
The Qualifications required from the Deacon are, 1. Profession of purity of motive in undertaking the office. 2. Acknowledgment that his call to the Ministry is consistent with the rule of Christ and the due order of the realm. 3. Profession of belief in the Holy Scripture. The Promises made by the Deacon are, Official, that he will fulfil the ecclesiastical and temporal duties of the office; and Personal, that he will frame his life, and that of his family, according to the doctrine of Christ, and make them exemplary to the flock of Christ. And lastly, that he will be obedient to the Ordinary and other chief ministers of the Church.
Such and such only are the duties and obligations of the Deacon's office, intrusted to him by the Bishop alone, without the concurrence or sanction of any persons whatever. From the Bishop alone he derives his authority, and from him alone receives it by imposition of hands.
Very different indeed are the duties of the next order of the Ministry, that of the Priesthood, both in themselves, in the solemnity with which they are conferred, and in the authority from which they are derived. The title of Minister (diakonos) is common to both the Deacon and the Presbyter; but the assertion of the Apostle, that there are "differences of ministrations" diairesis diakonion), could not be better exemplified than in the distinct and separate character of the duties which, according to the constitution of the Christian Ministry in the Church of England, are entrusted either to the Deacon or to the Priest, to the Priest or to the Bishop. Our Church doubtless regards the Christian Ministry, with its three separate Orders, as the great instrument ordained, according to the will of our. Lord Jesus Christ, for gathering together the flock of Christ to the eternal praise of God's holy name, and appointed for the salvation of mankind. The one end of the institution of such a Ministry is the preaching the Gospel of Christ, and rendering the knowledge of the Gospel effective to the purpose for which it was given--the redemption of mankind from eternal death. But as all the members of the human body have different powers, which, by their united operations, constitute one man; so in the spiritual body, the Church, the perfection of its existence is produced by the united operation of different energies, committed to different orders of ministers. When the Apostle first states the fact, "God hath set some in the Church," or, as it might be more correctly translated, "There are those whom God hath set in the Church: first, Apostles; secondly, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues;" and immediately puts the question, "Are all apostles, are all prophets, are all teachers, are all workers of miracles?" he not only invites the Corinthian Church to contemplate without murmuring and envy those grants, by the absolute will of God, of spiritual gifts, which varied in authority, in power, and in usefulness; but seems also to justify the conduct of the Church, in conferring upon different orders of men different duties, by the distinct performance of which, as by different members, the whole body of the Church, "being fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in love."
I proceed, then, to state the duties of the Priesthood in our Church; at the same time desiring the reader to bear in mind, that whatever may have been the persona] ability of the Deacon, or wide the parish in which, during the time of his Diaconate, he has laboured; the title by which he is to be distinguished, and the duties which he is to be charged with, upon his admission to the Priesthood, are wholly different from those which he has hitherto borne, or which have been before committed to him. If we examine the service of our Church for the Ordering of Priests, for the purpose of ascertaining the duties of the second Order of the Ministry, we shall discover, that the nature of those duties is declared in two separate forms; first, in that of the Exhortation to the persons presented for ordination to the Priesthood; secondly, in the questions proposed by the Bishop to the candidates, to which answers are publicly given. Contrasting this service with that for the Ordination of Deacons, we cannot but remark in the latter-mentioned service, the entire absence of all earnest exhortation to the fulfilment of their duty. With the exception of the first inquiry,--"Do you think you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost, to take upon you this office and ministration?"--not a word is said for the purpose of deepening in. the mind of the candidate his feeling of the responsibility, which attaches to the office of a Deacon. But in the service of the Ordering of Priests, we find an Exhortation, in which all the powers of the most impassioned rhetoric appear to be combined with scriptural truth, to magnify the importance of the office of Priesthood, and to impress the candidate with a due sense of the dignity .and importance of the office to which he is now called. The Exhortation, in its opening clause, also points out to those who are occupied in the duty of preparing candidates, that a part of their private examination ought to consist, in showing them the dignity and importance of the office to which they are called. Were we to ask--In what way, in the private examination of the candidates for Priesthood, is it shown to them, how far more dignified and important is the office to which they are now called, than was that of the Diaconate, the duties of which they have for a year or so discharged? I fear that no very satisfactory answer would be given. In the Church of Rome the Presbyter is believed to have a supernatural power in consecrating the elements of bread and wine in the Lord's Supper, of transforming them into the natural body and blood of Christ; and all the sins of a whole life are supposed to be cancelled, when the Priest, acting on his own judgment of the reality of the penitent's attrition, declares him to be absolved; and it is easy to understand how in their private examinations the office of the Priest may be magnified to the imagination of the Deacon, who may be told that he is soon to be empowered to create his Creator, and to release the souls of the dying from the penalties of sin. But upon these points the Exhortation to the candidates for Priesthood in our Church is. silent: it is not their sacerdotal function which is pressed upon their consideration, but the duties of the pastoral care--the relation in which the pastor stands to his flock. And if, in practice, scarcely more pains are employed in raising the minds of candidates for the office of Priesthood in our Church to a sense of the importance of their office, than has been used in preparing them for the office of Deacons, the reason is evident: the Deacon has already performed all the Pastoral duties, whilst acting as the Curate of a parish, and to speak to him now of the importance of duties with which he has been already entrusted, would be out of place.
The custom which has prevailed in our Church of appointing Deacons to act as Curates, has really kept men from perceiving, how important a station the Priesthood is, and has made them unmindful of the fact, that our Church in her Ordination services has drawn the broadest line of distinction between the Ecclesiastical, Temporal, and Public ministrations of a Deacon, and the Spiritual and Private ministrations of the Priest, in the care of men's souls. Let ns then note particularly the character of the Priest's office, as it is expressed in the Exhortation solemnly addressed by the Bishop to the candidates for the office of Priesthood. The candidate is reminded that he is called to a "high dignity;" a "weighty office and charge;" "to be a messenger, watchman, and steward of the Lord;" "to be a teacher and a monitor;" "to feed and provide for the Lord's family;" "to seek for Christ's sheep who are dispersed abroad, and for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world;" "that the treasure committed to his charge are the sheep of Christ," and "the Church under his care Christ's spouse and body." His office is further said to be "of great difficulty as well as great excellency;" and requires, besides other means for fulfilling it, "the forsaking of all other cares and studies, the giving themselves wholly to this office, applying themselves wholly to this one thing, and drawing all their cares and studies that way."
In such terms has our Church described that Cure of souls, which she entrusts to no man, before she admits him to the Priest's office; and the promises which she requires of him, in order to the fulfilment of his duty, are these: "that he will use both public and private monitions and exhortations to the sick as well as to the whole; that he will lay aside the study of the world and of the flesh; that he will banish and drive away all strange doctrines, and maintain quietness, peace, and love among all Christian people."
The distinction between the Diaconate and the Presbyterate of our Church appears to me to be as strongly marked as that between the secular and religious of the Church of Rome; the Deacon is permitted to perform the ordinary duties of life, but the Presbyter bids adieu to worldly employments, and makes the duties of the Ministry his all-absorbing thought and care. If there be any meaning in words and terms, as expressing the nature of things and the feelings and duties of men, the Presbyter of our Church is, what the Deacon is not. He is a watchman, messenger, and steward of the Lord,--not so the Deacon. He is charged with the care of the flock, and of the Church, which is Christ's spouse,--not so the Deacon. He is charged, both publicly and privately, to exhort and admonish the sick and the whole,--not so the Deacon. He is to maintain peace and charity and love, and to forsake all other cares and studies,--not so the Deacon. The Deacon's office receives no other designation in our Ordinal than that of "this inferior office," but so highly does our Church esteem the office of Priesthood, that she never witnesses the appointment of persons to it without offering thanks to God in highest terms of praise. In measuring the extent of the difference between the duties of the two Orders, we may notice that the Order of Priesthood is conferred with prayer far more solemn than that at the ordination of a Deacon: the whole congregation is invited to join in secret earnest prayer, and silence is kept for some minutes before the solemn invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the candidates in the hymn, Veni Creator. There is, if I may so speak, an intensity of prayer, an earnestness of supplication, and a tone of rejoicing in the ordination of our Priests, which is hardly to be met with in any other of the services of our Church. No ceremony can be more simple, but the feeling which it calls forth is intense. It may also be remarked, as indicating another distinctive difference between the office of a Priest and that of a Deacon, that, whilst the latter office is conferred by the imposition of the hands of the Bishop alone, it is necessary to receiving the office of a Priest, that Priests should be present with the Bishop, and join the Bishop in laying their hands upon the person to be ordained. How different also are the terms in which the authority to execute the office is conveyed! To the Priest, but not to the Deacon, it is said, "Receive the Holy Ghost; whose sins thou dost forgive they are forgiven;" and whilst the dispensation and administration of the Sacraments are committed to the Priest, the Deacon is no further empowered than to assist the Priest, and to baptize infants. The ordinary idea of the distinction between the two Orders is limited to the inability of the Deacon to read or pronounce the absolution, and to consecrate the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. Upon the whole meaning and importance of this distinction I do not dwell, because it is much more to my present purpose to show, that, the cure of souls is limited by the terms of the Ordination Service to the Priest alone, whilst a share in the performance of duties, which concern the public exercise of religion, and the worship of God, is allowed to the Deacon.
I should be sorry to appear guilty of any levity in discussing these important topics, but, in order to the full explanation of the distinctive nature of the duties of the three Orders of the Christian Ministry, it may be necessary to allude to other professions for an explanation of the statement, that the three degrees of the Ministry are not merely conventional steps or grades indicating higher rank or standing. In the Law, there are the wearers of the stuff gown, the silk gown, and the coif; in the Army and Navy, Lieutenants, Captains, Admirals, and Generals of various degrees. But the Advocate, whatever be his standing or rank at the bar, has exactly the same duties to fulfil to his client; the senior officer, whatever his rank, may command a regiment or a ship. But not so in the three Orders of the Church, each of which has its specific duties so limited to it, that in no case can a member of an inferior Order supply the duties of the superior. The Deacon cannot fulfil the duties of the Presbyter, nor the Presbyter supply the absence of the Bishop. If there be no Bishop, neither can Holy Orders be administered for the perpetuation of the Ministry, nor can any be confirmed. If there be no Priest, the Holy Sacrament of the Lord's Supper cannot be administered. If there be not at least a Deacon to officiate, public worship in the church cannot be carried on. And the reason of this; is evident to all who admit the principle, that the authority which any clergyman has in sacred ministrations cannot be more extensive, than that which is conferred upon him, when he is admitted to his office, either of Priest or Deacon. I proceed to consider, Secondly, whether the Order of Deacons, supposing it to consist of persons under different obligations, and having different duties from those which belong to the Presbyterate, has a real, practical, and specific existence in our Church. Now I think it can hardly be denied that, though every man, who is admitted to the Ministry in our Church, is first ordained a Deacon, there will be found scarcely a single instance, in which the Deacon confines himself to the specific duties of his office. If the Church, in her Ordinal, has prescribed the sphere of duty, the boundaries of that sphere are openly transgressed. Instead of considering himself intrusted with no other duty than that of publicly ministering in the congregation, the Deacon acts as one who has the Cure of souls, and regards himself as a watchman, messenger, and. steward of the Lord; the permission to preach the Gospel publicly in the Church, is to him licence to "teach and to premonish" in the cottage and in the family; and when he hears at the ordination to the Priesthood how serious a charge is about to be committed to him, he is conscious that there is not one of the duties mentioned in; the Exhortation describing the awfulness of Priesthood, which, as a zealous and active Curate, he has not laboured to perform; and he is perhaps rather surprised that, whilst the duties which he has already performed without authority are proposed to him so earnestly as new duties, the other points of duty, which he knows that he has not before received authority to perform, and which are commonly accounted the only characteristics of Priesthood, are not at all pressed upon his consideration at this the most awful period of his life.
The Diaconate is regarded as'the first step in the Ministry, but it is a position, in which it is thought, that no one ought to remain. A change has perhaps lately taken place, but certainly many years have scarcely elapsed, since a Bishop would have refused to admit a person to be a Deacon, if he desired no farther to serve the Church than by the fulfilment of the duties of that office; and I have reason to believe that the very expression of such a wish on the part of a Deacon would have been considered to indicate a mind so unprepared to devote itself to God, arid so engrossed in the pleasures of the world, as wholly to disqualify him for admission even to the lowest step in the Christian Ministry. We therefore have not, practically, an Order of Deacons; not only are the pastoral duties performed by the Deacons in large parishes the same with those performed by the Priests, but a temper of mind is required in the Deacon, as wholly abstracted from all secular feelings and pursuits, and as ready to be spent in the service of the sanctuary, as that demanded of the Priest. The Deacon would consider himself far too much lowered in the Ministry, if he were now restricted "to serving tables," attending to the temporal wants of the poor, teaching the Catechism to the children, and did not receive from "the Bishop himself a licence to preach." Though the souls of the parishioners are not committed to him, he considers that he is virtually answerable for their improvement, and that he would fall short of his duty if he limited his labour to the performance of only public ministrations, and were not employed in winning souls, in converting sinners, in awakening the conscience and subduing the heart. It is probable, that as our Church has not in this age a separate Order of Deacons, performing no higher duties than those which are described and pointed out to them at the time of their Ordination, so neither has the existence of such an Order been to any considerable extent exemplified in our Church since the Reformation. Indeed, it may be questioned whether such an order of men, as the English ordinal settled at the Reformation contemplated, has existed in the Church since the time that the worship of the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper became the idolatry of the Christian Church, and that the Christian Ministry was converted into sacrificing Priests and ministering Levites; in other words, since the time that the efficiency of the Presbyter's office was supposed to consist in offering up a daily succession of expiatory sacrifices on the altar, rather than in setting forth to the world the sufficiency of the one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross for our redemption, and in exhorting men to realize to themselves, by faith and obedience, the benefits of that atonement. But the more probable the opinion may be, that from the period of the corruption of religion by the Church of Rome, the Order of Deacons ceased to perform duties analogous to those which appear in Acts vi., to have been confided to the Seven Deacons at Jerusalem, the greater reason is there to admire and adore the wonderful Providence of God in directing the minds of our Reformers to impress upon the third Order of Ministers of our Church, the simple character .of the Primitive and Apostolic Diaconate, and to prescribe such duties to be performed, as, though not requiring in the three last centuries a numerous body of men to execute them, are now found to be the very office and duties requisite for the perfection of our Church, and for the supply of the spiritual necessities of the people. Were it to happen in this century, that the Christian Ministry should renew in practice as well as in, theory the perfection of the Apostolic age, by the development of the agency of the third Order of the Ministry, upon an extended scale, such a change would not be an alteration in the fundamental principles of our ecclesiastical polity, nor any deviation from the laws of our Church. It might be regarded as a proceeding analogous to that of the Royal Psalmist, when he set in order the services of the Priests, and commanded the attendances of .the Levites, and gave efficiency to those ceremonial laws, which had been revealed to Moses, more than four, centuries, before the time of David, but; which the Jewish nation-seem not in any previous age to have perfectly obeyed.
I proceed now to consider, in the third and last place, whether the extension of the Order of Deacons, and of the performance, of the duties belonging to that order does not appear to be the most effective means for supplying the wants of the Church. And I shall. conclude with pointing out the method in which that extension might, as it appears to me, under God's blessing, be effected.
The wants of the Church is a widely-meaning term; and if we regard the individual members of Christ's Church as each of them wanting something, more self-knowledge, more faith, more self-denial, more love of God and of their neighbour; and if we consider that, whatever advances any one may make towards the perfection of the Christian character,--there will ever exist some defect to be supplied, some infirmity to be strengthened, or waywardness of will to be overcome; it will be obvious, that nothing could be more presumptuous than the notion, that wants, such as these which are individually felt, can be relieved in any other way than individually, by the influence of the Spirit upon each man's heart and life. These are personal and private wants, the pressure of which is felt most, strongly by those who most abound in the riches, of God's grace, and whose minds are most enlightened to discover the spots and blemishes, which tears of repentance cannot wash out, and which, after years of spiritual progress, are not wholly effaced. But if we consider what maybe termed the social wants of the Church, those which affect her external condition, and her public character, and collective usefulness, it will be evident, that as the necessities which exist maybe made apparent to the most casual observers, also the means of supplying and remedying them are such as human wisdom is able to suggest, and a genuine piety able to supply.
The means by which the Divine Providence from time to time makes known to society (whether considered in a religious or civil point of view) its peculiar wants, are certainly remarkable. The public mind seems to be of itself incapable of becoming conscious, how time has impaired the energies of some part of the body politic, or extended with unperceived growth some other part, in an apparently undue proportion. And thus it happens, that it is some individual, whose name society has scarcely heard, who reveals the astounding fact of moral desolation, and spiritual ignorance, and wide-extended heathenism existing publicly, yet generally unknown; but whilst society hastens to remedy the evil, it is rarely with the feeling of self-reproach and of shame, that of itself it did not discover the evil and check its earlier growth.
The want of churches and of schools to meet the wants of a rapidly increasing population, existed long before the extent of the want and the duty of supplying it was pointed out by a few pious and zealous men; and now that we have those churches and schools, we at last discover, what was scarcely before perceived, that the ministrations of the Incumbents and Curates, even where the number of the Clergy has been greatly increased, are. not in any densely peopled district as extensive as the nature of the case requires, nor adequate to the instruction of all the people.
I do not mean that no impression is produced upon a dense population by a body of Clergy as numerous as that which may be found in such parishes as Pancras and Marylebone, in St. George's, Hanover Square, and St. John's, Westminster, in Lambeth, or in Bethnal Green; the truths of the Gospel can be nowhere faithfully preached, nor can exertions be any where made by zealous Ministers, without some infusion of good which affects the whole mass. But as the state of individuals with respect to religion is this, that the more they know of it, the more they desire it, so also is it with respect to society. The planting of a single church in one place, makes men perceive ten other spots equally without means of worship; the having for the first time the blessing of temporary and casual pastoral ministration, shows men the value of permanently possessing this privilege; the well-frequented church reminds the worshippers how many there are who still stay away. It is the very nature of the pastoral care to increase by fresh accumulation the labour of the task, and, whilst the wearied labourer in God's vineyard finds that his hours of labour are necessarily numbered, and his bodily powers limited, he sees all around him fresh calls to labour, which, thankful as he may be that they exist, it is grief of heart to reflect, that time and life are too short to enable him to attend them as he desires.
The wants of our Church are not merely those which arise from an increase of population. Had our population remained stationary in number, the number of the Clergy would still have required augmentation; the Incumbent would have found himself unable alone to perform the duty of the parish without additional help; the village hamlet would still, as in the most ancient time, have required its chapel of ease. The very fact that the parishioners of country parishes are no longer content with one service or one sermon on the Lord's day, or once perhaps in a fortnight at some uncertain hour to have, some strange, Clergyman appear, among them and hastily go; through a service, renders it impossible, that even, the ordinary ministrations should, be performed by the same limited number of Clergy as heretofore, whilst in the densely-peopled parishes, no sooner; is the neighbourhood adorned with a church, than the number of those who are unable or unwilling to frequent it, becomes at once a token of spiritual destitution before, unperceived, and the newly-diffused light only serves to render more visible the depth of darkness all around. Our Church, then, at the commencement of the fourth century of her Reformation, finds herself, both as respects the increase of the population, and the increased desire of her members for religious instruction, in circumstances altogether new. Are the country, people still in any place immersed in ignorance, the philosophic statesman at once imputes their forlorn condition as a crime to the Clergy. Are the lanes and alleys of our crowded cities the haunts of vice, where squalid poverty and heathen wretchedness offend the sight, to whom do people look for remedy of the evil, and to amend the neglect of generations long passed away, but to the Clergy, upon whom, the more they labour, the greater is the work thrown? Our numbers are not increased in any degree commensurate with the work required at our hands, nor, according to my judgment, are the labourers who are added of that kind which is most required; every additional Presbyter, who is located in any new district whether as Incumbent or Curate finds the want of some persons to help him in his duties; the interval between himself and the lowest of his people is one which, however he amplifies his labour, he cannot fill his single visits to the court or lane or factory, though not without effect, do not unite him with the whole mass of the people: he may have; a crowded church, and a schoolroom opened for prayer, but, he feels that, were he in twenty places, at each it would, be. possible to assemble a congregation ready, to be taught, and willing to learn how to pray. The wants of the Church appear to me to be social rather than personal. Under our present parochial system the Incumbents and Curates of populous parishes are perhaps adequate to minister to the purely spiritual necessities of those, who are sensible of the value of a pastor's counsel, and thankful for his care. And such ministrations, as they are in themselves most valuable, so also are they the faithful minister's chief reward.
But how is society to be made religious? I think not by personal so much as by .social exercise not by invitation to individuals, but by preaching to the mass; by public declarations of the Gospel, more than by private intercourse.
It will, I think, be acknowledged, that the first duty which mankind, enlightened by revelation,: has to perform, is that of keeping the Sabbath and worshipping God. How paramount a duty this is, may appear from this consideration, that however extensive may be the diffusion of Christianity in any nation, or however well grounded any man's faith may be, if the Sabbath be neglected, a nation will soon become vicious and profligate; if God be not worshipped, the most fervent piety will soon become cold. If all the people in our densely-crowded cities scrupulously kept the Sabbath day, as a memorial of the creation of the world, and of their redemption by the resurrection of Christ; if every family came together daily in private, and weekly in public, to worship God, the Church would seem to be in a capacity to be blessed, and every member of it prepared to receive and to profit by the influence of the Holy Spirit. So approaching to God, God would surely come nigh to them. Amongst the higher orders of society, what is it but Sabbath-breaking and neglect of public worship, which shuts out princes and nobles, the learned and the wealthy, from the sweet influences of religion; which encourages worldly-minded-ness, and fosters a profane, a sceptical or infidel spirit in the heart? And so also among the lower orders, drunkenness and theft, immorality and violence, poverty and filth, are but secondary causes of their universal wretchedness. It is Sabbath-breaking and wilful forgetfulness of God, which sears the conscience and hardens the heart; the truth of the statement being proved by the fact, that happiness and contentment, peace and resignation, never fail to inhabit the cottage of the poorest labourer, who conscientiously keeps the Sabbath, and joins in the public worship of God.
The opinion which I am about to state may sound harshly upon the ears of many well-disposed persons, but I cannot avoid expressing my conviction, that under no circumstances whatever, can churches be so multiplied, or incumbencies so formed in our dense population, as to effect the purpose of bringing the Gospel home to the doors of the lowest of ,the people. A church is the place for, a public, but not for a domestic, mission. The Gospel must be preached in courts, and alleys, and factories, or the church bell will sound in vain. For this duty, the Order of Deacons appears to be most fitted; the ecclesiastical ministrations which belong specially to that order being those very ministrations, which are suited to the wants and condition of the poor. If the poor need opportunities of public worship and prayer more suited to their social state than those which the churches supply; if no Minister of any populous parish is able, by himself or his Curates, to hold converse with the great body of the youth, for the purpose of catechizing them in the truths of our holy religion; if a system of visitation is still required, by which the Incumbent of the parish may be informed of the temporal necessities of his parishioners, why should the Church hesitate to call forth a, numerous body of Deacons to perform these their specific duties? And if men can be found who are willing to perform these duties, but who would decline that advancement to the Priesthood, which would require them to forego all other cares, and to make the cure of souls their one object of life, is it wise to forego the services of such persons, or to perpetuate the notion, that no man is fit to be a Deacon who is not desirous to be a Priest; and when the Church requires various duties from men variously gifted, to limit the character and qualifications of those from whom she is willing to receive help, to those of one order of the Ministry?
The urgent necessities of the Church have compelled our prelates to sanction an order of men heretofore unknown in our communion, under the title of Scripture Readers. Upon this one fact alone I would rest my proof that the time is come for the enlargement: of the Order of Deacons, or at least for the formal restoration of some of the lower orders of the Ministry, the Sub-diaconate and Readership. Whilst many members of our Church entertain a conscientious scruple, which forbids them to accept such help, the Scripture Reader is himself placed in circumstances of the greatest difficulty, how to discharge his duty without constituting himself a Minister of religion; how to read the Gospel without affecting to expound it; how to invite the poor to prayer without establishing a conventicle. Were he a Deacon or other Minister duly authorized, his difficulty would instantly vanish; he might then pray publicly, and preach in any licensed place of meeting; he might then visit the sick as the precursor of the Priest's more solemn visitation; he might with authority instruct the youth, and ,in every court and factory gather round him a Sunday class.
The opinion then which I venture thus publicly to express, is simply this, that wherever Scripture Readers are employed, the services of Deacons are manifestly required, and that it is the duty of the Church to open what may be termed a Diaconal mission, and to avail herself of the services of all whom she may find competent for the office, and willing to take their part in this Ministry. I believe there are very few Incumbents who employ Scripture Readers, who do not earnestly desire that these labourers were Deacons; and I have met with more than a single instance of a Scripture Reader uneasy in his conscience, because he felt that he was acting in the Ministry without being duly commissioned for the work, that he was partially, but not wholly authorized' connived at, rather than openly avowed; ready to be at a moment cast off and disowned, if it should appear that from ignorance or from zeal he had outstepped the ill-defined and uncertain line, which is supposed to separate his duties from those of the Ministerial office. I think there is reason to believe that, amongst the Laity of this great metropolis, as well as in other parts of the kingdom, there would be found many members of our Church engaged in professions or offices, and even of independent fortune, who would be willing, if permitted so to do, to devote much of their time to the fulfilment of those duties which now belong to the Deacon's office, who would not disdain to assemble the poor in some humble oratory or upper chamber of the factory (huperoon) set apart for worship, who would catechize the youth, and visit the cottages of the poor. It is on the Sunday, and almost on that day alone, that the heads of families amongst the poor are to be met with in their own houses; on that very day, when the ministrations of the Incumbent and Curates confine them almost from morning until night within the walls of the church. I would most seriously press this fact upon the consideration of my readers, not only as pointing out the want of more I numerous opportunities of assembling the poor to worship on the Lord's day than the parish churches or chapels afford,, but also as showing how great would be the value of such services even if they were limited to the Lord's day. On Sunday our crowded courts and alleys contain during the day the full quota of their inhabitants; but on that day the Clergy of the towns are wholly occupied in another portion of the vineyard: marrying, preaching, churching, baptizing, burying, fill up the whole day; from morning until night. The Village pastor may refresh his mind and body with a Sabbath-day evening walk, and with many a friendly salutation cheer the cottage of the labouring man on a summer eve, but night comes before the duties of the third service in populous towns and cities allow the pastor to retire to rest.
The idea of admitting to the Deacon's office persons who should not be required to relinquish their secular calling, is hardly likely in this age to be entertained; and there may be legal and canonical impediments, as well as prejudices of society, which it is difficult to overcome; but none of these difficulties stand in the way of admitting to the lower order of the Ministry, the Sub-diaconate or Readership, persons, whose means of support may be derived from trades or other similar occupations. For such a proceeding the canons of the African, if not of other, Churches supply a precedent sufficiently clear and distinct. Were such a measure adopted, the inconvenience which is now felt in the employment of Scripture Readers, that a man rarely undertakes that duty without forming an idea that he is entitled to admission to the Priesthood, and is not content to remain in the humbler office, would be avoided; for these Ministers would know themselves disqualified for the Priesthood, unless they were prepared to abandon altogether their secular emoluments; and if, after serving in the humbler Ministry, they were prepared to make such a sacrifice, and were also skilled in learning, I cannot see in what way the fact of their previous ministration having been combined with secular employment should prevent their advancement, provided they are willing to make sacrifices which may be, in many cases, scarcely less severe than those which the convert to some monastic order makes, when, as the phrase is, "transit in religionem." When I see that in our Protestant Church there are not wanting in this age females of rank and intelligence ready to devote themselves, as the Deaconesses of old, to acts of piety and mercy, I think it reasonable to conclude that a similar spirit prevails amongst many of the other sex, who, though not willing to submit to monastic vows, are ready to undertake the humbler ministerial duties. It would be a consequence of the employment of such persons, that the difficulty of providing incomes for Scripture Readers and additional Curates would no longer exist; the voluntary services of pious men on the Lord's day, together with occasional visits to the poor during the week, being almost all that the Church would require.
It has often been the reproach of our Church, that zeal finds within it no sphere of exertion; that between the Ministers of religion, and the necessities of the poor, there is a vast field upon which none but Ministers may enter; that the uniform education of the Clergy prevents their mixing as much with the different classes of society as is desirable; and that, though the work of the Ministry be greater than the strength of the Ministry can supply, we still refuse all help. That this is the effect of our practically renouncing the peculiar service of the Order of Deacons, and resting solely upon a Presbyterate, limited by the number of the churches, and by the difficulty of finding money to maintain such Ministers, will perhaps become evident to those who shall patiently read what I have written, and give their minds to an impartial consideration of the case. But if the condition of our Church be new, why should we not adapt our proceedings to our new condition? And though we have hitherto made our way almost without that order of men which the Apostles first established, and which our reformers in theory, though not in effect, secured, why should we now refuse to avail ourselves of a greater number of Deacons, because it is easy to have an irregular order, called Scripture Readers, whilst the renovation of the Diaconate, or the Canonical establishment, of a Sub-diaconate, would require thought and pains?
This Essay has grown under my hands to a much greater length than I at first contemplated, nor will I further weary the patience of my readers by considering, what legal and canonical proceedings may be required for the extension of the Ministry as herein suggested; I will only add, that I should have forborne the public expression of my sentiments, had it not appeared to those whom I have consulted, that the time was come for opening the subject to public discussion; and had not my own experience proved to me, that the number of those of every shade of feeling, who are praying for the extension of the Diaconate, or the revival in our Church of some lower order in the Ministry, is by no means inconsiderable. Of the importance of the step which I have now taken, I am most fully sensible; nor can I find words adequately to express my own feelings upon a subject, which involves such serious and awful results. The thoughts I have now expressed may possibly be uttered in vain; but whether it be the will of God to grant to our Church the blessing of an extension of the Orders of our Ministry proportionate to our necessities, or still to withhold it from us, I trust that I shall yet appear only to have done my duty; and, having said thus much, I commend the result to God, and to the prayers of every one who knows what it is to pray for the good estate of the Catholic Church, that it may be so guided and governed by the good Spirit of God, "that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life."