A BOOK of devotion for the use of the clergy must always prove acceptable; and yet there are not many manuals of this nature which have acquired a standard reputation among us. George Herbert's Country Parson will last as long as Anglicanism exists; and much excellent matter may be found in the printed charges of the Episcopate. Bishop Taylor's Advices, Bishop Burnet's Pastoral Care, Bishop Wilson's Parochialia, are all excellent; but, on the whole, one may say, that, considering the importance of the object, a good and sound manual for clerical use is still a desideratum amongst us.
The present adaptation cannot be regarded as a manual of devotion in the strict sense of the word, but is intended to be the harbinger of one. The strong light in which this thoughtful work (which has been well called, "the clergyman's Kempis") places the duties of the clergy, in the way of warnings by our LORD, and of devout acquiescences on the part of His disciple, will doubtless help to create a demand for some work of piety more exclusively for the use of the LORD'S heritage; and we cannot doubt but that some one will be raised up to supply this want. Such an one will deserve the thanks of his brethren.
If it be found that the Christian's course on earth is so steep and slippery, that every aid in the way of books of piety and devotion is necessary to enable him to fight the good fight of faith, it surely almost follows as a consequence, that, amid the peculiar and additional trials to which the clergy are exposed, a similar help should be afforded.
It cannot be doubted--and the experience of every clergyman, who compares his spiritual combat now with that before his ordination, will confirm the fact--that the Ecclesiastical state has got temptations peculiarly its own. Those who look narrowly into their hearts will find the existence of sources of sin within them that were never called out till they were dedicated to the LORD; and the external circumstances of the life, while it protects them against some of the grosser sins, exposes them eminently to some subtler ones, which ravage the soul. The external hedge of outward decency, and what the world expects in the way of apparent decorum, may do much to save from some offences, but everything else--the position, the confidence usually placed in a clergyman, the inevitable public display, the necessity of being a guide to others, the having to talk of religion in a professional way, and many other things--do tend, specially, to expose the clergy to very serious temptation. As the laity become more religious, they naturally come to lean more on the opinions of their clergy; and one need hardly say how dangerous this is to the clergyman himself. Thus his very virtues become snares to him; and the more zealous and laborious he is, the stronger come upon him such temptations as I allude to. And this is the more to be watched whenever the pastoral care takes the shape of anything like spiritual direction--the highest and closest relationship between priest and people. Whatever may be said for or against this--however much truth there may be in the fact, that no soul can attain to high perfection without that submission of the will which spiritual direction requires and creates--or however much may be said of the danger of weakening the moral sense by relying on another's dictation--as a matter of fact, spiritual direction, in some shape or other, will exist, so long as temptation assaults, and the remains of the fall subsist in Christians. Both within and without the Church, a craving for this exists--so strong, that it is the policy of a wise ruler not to try to quench it, but to guide and to direct it to good.
But while we accept the fact of its necessity, and in some cases commend that of its exercise, it will at once be seen what a snare it may be to the clergyman. And the same tells down through all the different degrees of the pastoral relationship. So dangerous is it for poor frail man to be looked up to, even in the legitimate discharge of the holiest of functions.
The first duty, then, of every clergyman is to know his temptations in this respect, and to pray for the grace of humility. It is also very necessary for him to appreciate at once the dignity and lowliness of the priesthood, for the condition of the servant of the Altar is a notable instance of that double character, implying almost contradiction, which the wonderful mystery of the Incarnation has introduced into the world. That mighty event, whereby the Author of Life died--the Possessor of all things became poor--has instilled its own preternatural virtue, and its own paradox, into all things that bear its image, and derive their nature from it. An apparent inconsistency is now no argument against the truth and reality of the things of the Spirit, for as the two ends of that rainbow whose centre is hid from us display their varied colours in the reverse order, so the dispensations of the ALMIGHTY, of which we only see a part, and those portions only which touch the earth, will often exhibit to us, who perceive not the connexion, contrary manifestations, not to be reasoned upon, but to be submitted to. Of this nature is the faith, the most unreasonable of arguments, yet the victory that overcometh the world. Of this kind is the blessedness of little children, thoughtless, fickle, as the fabled creatures of superstition, yet whose angels are beholding the FATHER'S Face. Of this nature is poverty, apparently the direct bar to all spirituality, yet the portion of the blessed of GOD.
Now, the clerical state is of this nature:--It is exceeding high in its dignity, yet it must stoop to the lowest things. The clergyman is the ambassador of GOD; he is also the servant of all. He handles mysteries which the angels dare not touch, yet he has to stoop to the lowliest occupations. He exercises powers beyond the highest earthly authorities, yet he has to renounce the world and all its pomps, and lead a self-denying life among CHRIST'S poor and His little ones.
This double condition is strikingly expressed in the words of the Middle Age--
O Sacerdos, quid est tu?
Non es a te, quia de nihilo,
Non es ad te, quia mediator ad Deum,
Non es tibi, quia sponsus ecclesiæ.
Non es tui, quia servus omnium,
Non es tu, quia Dei minister,
Quid es ergo--nihil et omnia,
And it is in this light that the clergy should specially look upon the doctrine of the Apostolic Succession. That blessed truth, instead of tending to inflate them with a sacerdotal arrogance, should weigh heavy upon them, as a token of increased responsibility. Once admit that the valid administration of the Sacraments and the right tradition of doctrine depend upon this, and you get the highest incenstive to devotion and a holy life. There is no room for laxity with this belief. A clergyman, holding this, must not only live as becomes this belief, but (in this country at least) he is pledged to a missionary spirit, to win into the true Fold the scattered sheep without. Privilege and responsibility are as closely united in the kingdom of Grace, as sin and punishment in that of Providence.
While, then, he studies to guard himself against the snares which his position is apt to entangle himself in, the good clergyman will "magnify his office"--not with the feeling that it is to add to his temporal consequence, but with the thought that it augments his Christian responsibility. The laxity of manners during the last century, and a low view of the functions of the Christian priesthood acted and reacted on each other. A man dared not think of himself as the ambassador of CHRIST while leadng the life of a tolerably decent layman. And a feeling that a minister was a mere preacher of morals naturally led to a state of things wherein the clergyman's life was that of an amiable country gentleman. Then followed the Evangelical Movement which, from its imperfect grasp of the mystery of the Incarnation, was never able to realise the idea of a visible Church. It was not to be expected that its authors should take a high view of this subject. Personal qualifications for edifying would take the places of the deeper fitnesses for the priesthood in this system, and hence the sacrifice of the prayers to the sermon, and the subordination of the Altar to the Pulpit.
But now the clergy, as a body, have awakened to a feeling of the sacredness of their order. An enlightened public opinion, as well as their own consciences, expect more of them now than would have satisfied the last age. Earnestness and zeal are, thanks be to GOD, no longer regarded as impertinences and anachronisms--we find young men devoting themselves to the service of the Altar with the one desire of the glory of GOD in the salvation of souls. We may not yet have arrived at such a spirit as is desirable: there are still degrees in self-dedication that our younger brethren have not yet attained to, but still there is much to encourage us--there is much in the conduct of the lately-ordained to smite the consciences of us, their elders--there is much that augurs well for the increased efficacy of the Church, which must end, we may humbly pray, in the salvation of many souls for whom CHRIST died, and in the restoration of unity in His torn and mangled Body.
It is to meet the wants which this improved state of clerical morals has created that this translation is given to the members of our communion. It is a product of the Church of France, and unites that tone of elegant high breeding with sincere and genuine piety which so markedly distinguishes the works of Fenelon, and the other luminaries of the Gallican Church. The author, Arvisenet, was a priest of the Diocese of Langres, Vicar General of Troyes, and was the author of Le Froment de Elus, and some other little devotional books. It was at first published anonymously, and its merits made it well known, even without the recommendation of the author's name.
The Editions vary much. Some have much additional matter which the others are deficient in, and the order of the chapters is not the same. In this translation, I have been careful to exclude whatever might tend to impair its usefulness among our clergy; at the same time, I have not thought myself at liberty to make more changes than this:--for instance, I have not altered, to any material degree, the rules for the regulation of the pastor's private life--though the relaxation of the rule of celibacy in our communion must necessarily modify what has there been written.
Some chapters are missed out entirely. They were those which had reference to the distinctive doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church--such as the chapter De Summo Romano Pontifice, capite visibili Ecclesiæ, Christin in terris vicario, that De Annuo Secessu, or that De Sincerâ devotione Erga Beatissimam Virginem Mariam; and also the preliminary address to the Gallican clergy, with the devotions at the end.
The first part of this translation was done in the month of October, 1847, at a very solemn season; the latter half has since been rendered into English by the Rev. Joseph Haskoll, Canon of S. Ninian's, Perth, to whom I beg to express my sincere thanks. I must also record my gratitude to that distinguished artist, W. Dyce, Esq. R.A., who beautiful Frontispiece is a worthy production of the purest pencil in Britain.
In conclusion, I crave the prayers of all those into whose hands this work may fall, beseeching them to remember me constantly therein, that nothing in this work may do any harm, and that our good LORD may regard not our unworthiness, but overrule our poor efforts, to the glory of His great and holy Name, and to the salvation of the souls for whom He poured out His life-blood.
A. P. F.
BRECHIN, EASTER, 1853.