THE INTERPRETER OF HOLY SCRIPTURE AND THE GUIDE TO ITS USE.
ASSISTANT RECTOR OF THE CHURCH OF THE ADVENT, BOSTON.
MARGARET COFFIN PRAYER BOOK SOCIETY,
BY A. WILLIAMS & CO.,
CHURCH BOOKSTORE, BOSTON.
Acts VIII. 34-36: "AND THE EUNUCH ANSWERED PHILIP, AND SAID, I PRAY THEE, OF WHOM SPEAKETH THE PROPHET THIS? OF HIMSELF, OR OF SOME OTHER MAN? THEN PHILIP OPENED HIS MOUTH, AND BEGAN AT THE SAME SCRIPTURE, AND PREACHED UNTO HIM JESUS. AND, AS THEY WENT ON THEIR WAY, THEY CAME UNTO A CERTAIN WATER: AND THE EUNUCH SAID, SEE, HERE IS WATER; WHAT DOTH HINDER ME TO BE BAPTIZED?"
THIS story, my brethren, of the Ethiopian eunuch and Philip the Deacon and Evangelist, occurred to me when I was asked to present to you the objects of the Margaret Coffin Prayer-Book Society, as suggesting a useful and appropriate line of thought for our consideration.
In the eunuch we have the example of a man really earnest and painstaking in matters of religion. Though trusted with weighty secular affairs, "a chamberlain of great authority" who had the charge of all the treasure of his sovereign, he found time for religious inquiry. Though a foreigner, he had allied himself with the Covenant People by the closest association that was open to one not of the seed of Abraham, as a proselyte of righteousness. The length of the journey from the region of the Upper Nile to Jerusalem did not deter him from going up to worship in the Temple at one or other of the solemn feasts of the Jewish year. He made good use of his time in travelling for the study of the Scriptures, nor was his earnestness less clearly shown by the readiness he evinced to receive instruction, his eagerness to embrace the opportunity that was [7/8] presented. All this, I say, shows that he was well disposed, and in a fit condition to learn; he was acting up to the light and knowledge which he had, and making the most of his opportunities; he was thus a fit subject for an illustration of the promise, "He that hath, to him shall he given." But (and this is more exactly to our present purpose) to him must somewhat be given. He stands in need of help. In perplexity and ignorance he needs instruction and guidance.
"Understandest thou what thou readest?" asked Philip, as he caught up with the chariot, and heard its occupant (according to the Eastern custom) reading aloud, though to himself, the sublime and pathetic description of victorious woe in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah.
"How can I, except some man should guide me?" was the reply, and the reader went on to inquire, "Of whom speaketh the Prophet this, concerning himself, or concerning some other man?"
"Then (we are told) Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at the same Scripture, preached unto him JESUS"--Jesus the suffering, yet triumphant Messiah, in Whom these and all the promises of the Prophets were fulfilled, in Whom all the aspirations and desires of the nations were realized,--how He was led as a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearer is dumb, He opened not His mouth; how He bare our transgressions, being our representative, in our nature, Himself knowing no sin, but made a sin-offering for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
Of how many, my brethren, in our day, as in every age, does this perplexed inquirer stand as a type and [8/9] representative. We are not concerned now with those who are altogether careless or entirely ignorant as to matters of religion, but with the case of those who have a glimmer of the truth. They resemble the man in the Gospel whose sight was partially restored, "He saw men as trees walking." They have a vague and imperfect knowledge of the Christian religion, its benefits and requirements; but no definite and orderly system whatever of Christian faith, or Christian morals, or Christian worship. Perhaps they are casting about for some coherent system; trying possibly to construct one for themselves. What do such persons need? They need, as did the eunuch, that some one should guide them; they need an authoritative Teacher. The Church, my brethren, is intended by God to do for them what Philip was sent to do for the eunuch. We are not intended, either by our own reasonings and speculations, nor from our own individual and unaided study of the Scriptures, however sanctified by prayer these studies may be, to frame for ourselves a religion. Christ has established and commissioned His Church, the living body of His disciples, to be the witness to Him in the world, "the pillar and ground of the Truth."
The Church delivers her message in various ways, through different channels; and certainly not least effectively, perhaps most popularly, by her Prayer-Book. It is an old saying, well worthy of consideration in many lights, "Lex orandi, lex credendi," the rule of prayer is the rule of faith; as the Church worships, so she believes. We might truly say, that in the Prayer-Book, and in the ministries that it implies, all her modes of testimony are comprised. And so I would speak to you this morning particularly of the [9/10] Prayer-Book as the Interpreter of Holy Scripture, and the Guide to its use and application.
I. In the first place, the Prayer-Book interprets the Bible, by giving us the Creeds of the Church. It is worth while to dwell for a minute on this question, so often misunderstood, of the relation of the Church to the Bible. To some persons it may seem an impertinence, almost a sacrilege, to hint that, with the Bible in their hands and the Holy Spirit in their hearts, there can be need of any interpreter or any other authoritative teacher. But as a matter of fact, the Church existed before the Bible. Apostles planted Churches before they addressed letters to them. They preached the Gospel orally, before they committed it to writing for its continual preservation. [Compare 2 St. Pet. i. 15.]
The Church was before the Bible, and the Church is before the Bible to us now. For how should we in later days have known which were the Sacred Books, or, for the matter of that, that there were any Sacred Books, unless the Church had gathered them into the Canon, and placed them in our hands? The God who speaks in Scripture must first be declared; that He has spoken, and that the Scriptures record His word, must be believed, ere we can, as disciples, study that word. Once again, it is a simple matter of fact, that we do not go to the Bible, that very few have ever done so, for our first instruction in religion. We approach it with ideas, whether right or wrong, already received, which we expect to find there corroborated. Suppose it were possible for one to take up the Bible without any previous religious conceptions in his mind, how would he fare? We might start out with full sail, and glide easily through the smooth waters of Genesis; but [10/11] I fear that most of us would lose our course, if we did not founder, when we came to Leviticus. But the Creeds of the Church serve as a key, that we may rightly use the Scriptures, of which they are the summary. "The Scriptures, the supreme rule of Faith, as being the Word of God, are not in themselves an all-sufficient Creed. They are too voluminous to be grasped entire by any single mind; and even if they could be so grasped, they would not be a Creed, for a Creed is a summary of truths thought to be essential, and it has never been held that a knowledge of every minutest detail of Scripture is essential to the well-being of the soul. Scripture, like Nature, is a vast field of research. The Creed is gathered out of Scripture, just as physical and chemical 'laws,' so called, are gathered out of Nature; that is, by the power of induction, or the careful comparison of fact with fact. A man of science might as well say that Nature was his knowledge, as a Christian that Scripture is his Creed." [Rev. W. R. Huntington, D.D., in The Church-Idea.]
The Creeds, the summaries of Apostolic doctrine, handed down from the beginning by the Church, as the Witness and Keeper of Holy Writ, give us the key to Holy Scripture. [Article xx. of the Articles of Religion.] To it we turn to correct, to strengthen, to refresh, to enlarge, to illuminate, but not first of all to learn, our faith. This is the purpose of its study laid down in the Bible itself. St. Luke, in the Preface to his Gospel, tells Theophilus that this record of our Lord's incarnate life is written "that he may know the certainty of those things wherein he had previously been catechetically instructed."
In the Creeds the Church teaches us what to look for in the Bible. The Creeds answer for us the question [11/12] of the eunuch, "Of whom speaketh the Prophet this?" They proclaim Jesus as the great central object of Faith in the Old and New Testament, teaching us to read the Old Testament in the light of the New, since "the testimony of Jesus (witness to Him) is the spirit of Prophecy."
II. And by her yearly round of Sacred Seasons the Church continually bears witness to Him. The Gospel (we need sometimes to be reminded), the Scripture Gospel is no scheme or plan of God's dealing with the individual soul, much less of that soul's feelings and experiences. The Gospel is the declaration of the Life and Death of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God. [See St. Mark i. 1; 1 Cor. xv. 1-14. This thought is developed in Rev. M. F. Sadler's invaluable manual, Church Doctrine--Bible Truth, ch. I.] It is a Person rather than a Scheme which is set, before us in the Bible itself as the Gospel. This being so, could there be a system more Scriptural, in accordance, that: is, with the evident intent and design of Scripture, than that of the Prayer-Book, which, in its sacred cycle of Festival and Fast, brings before us in dramatic form and in orderly sequence, the great mysteries of our Faith, and especially the events in the Incarnate Life of Jesus Christ, our Lord: His Birth and Manifestation; His Temptation and conquest of the Enemy; the renewed struggle in the Passion; the final Victory of the Resurrection, and the Triumph of His Ascension. By these commemorations the facts of the Gospel are kept constantly before us, now one and now another being unreel as a motive for holy living, a warning and encouragement in our Christian life, that so we may grow in the knowledge and love of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord, His Incarnate Son.
 Any other system which disregards this method must be so far unscriptural, as well as at variance with the traditional usage of the Church from the first.
III. In connection with this, consider further, my brethren, how the Prayer-Book by its selection of appointed Lessons, acts as the Interpreter of Holy Scripture, and guides us in its use.
In the Old Testament and New Testament Lessons, the Epistle and the Gospel, and in Proper Psalms for certain greater days, we are enabled to view the several mysteries on different sides,--Theological, Moral, and Spiritual. We see the foreshadowing and anticipation in the Old Testament, with its fulfilment in the New Testament. The fact is recorded in the Gospel, some at any rate of its applications, its bearing on our practical life and thought, are pointed out in the Epistle.
While, with regard to the strictly devotional use of Scriptures, how few, apart from the Liturgical training of the Prayer-Book, appreciate or even understand the use of the Psalter. By others it is read and listened to in the same posture of mind and body as other parts of Scripture, the Epistles, for instance, or the Prophecies, instead of being used as in the Church as the Divinely inspired and provided Manual of Devotion, giving the words and sentiments with which God wills that we should approach Him, whether in Penitence, in Supplication, or in Praise.
Would that we Churchmen, dear brethren, used the Psalter more, and were more familiar with its contents. In the multiplication in our day of books of devotion, we need jealously to guard against any other taking the place of the Manual of Prayer,--as of Spiritual Instruction,--which God has Himself provided. Let us [13/14] learn to turn, as the Prayer-Book teaches us, to different Psalms and classes of Psalms for suitable expression of our prayers and praises in all the varying occasions and necessities of life.
IV. But more is wanted than instruction in the Truth; there is a further need of 1he ministration of Grace. And hen; we may well go back to our Text. You can hardly have failed to be struck with the question of the Eunuch, so startling and unexpected.
Philip, beginning with Isaiah's prophecy of the Messiah's sufferings, preached to him the gospel, or declared (quite literally) good news of Jesus. And as they went on their way (the narrative relates) they came to a certain water; and the eunuch said, "See, here is water: what doth hinder me to be baptized?" The preaching of Jesus, then, it is plain, included Baptism as the mode of admission into the number of His disciples, so as to be a partaker of the benefits of His Life, and Death, and Resurrection. It included (the passage shows) the teaching of Baptism, not as a permissible ordinance for such as wished it, but as the appointed and therefore necessary mode of initiation; not as an edifying rite wherein the neophyte should before a congregation make a profession of discipleship, but as a means, a channel, of grace, so urgent, so important, so truly belonging to "the first principles of the doctrine of Christ" that this man, receiving his first instruction about Jesus, at once, at the first opportunity, asks that he may then and there receive the rite.
At first, I say, his request is startling in its abruptness; so close a connection between Jesus and Baptism to many must seem strange. Yet, in truth, it is in accord with much else in the New Testament, indeed [14/15] with the whole tenor of Apostolic teaching and practice, as we learn it, for instance, from St. Peter's answer to the multitude who, pricked in their heart by his first sermon on the day of Pentecost, cried out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ," he replied, "for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." "Then," St. Luke adds, "they that gladly received his word were baptized, and the same day there were added to the Church about three thousand souls." Similar was the teaching and the practice of St. Paul. The gaoler at Philippi, trembling and astonished at the miraculous intercession on behalf of his prisoners, cried out,--"Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thine house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord and to all that were in his house. And the same night he was baptized, he and all his straightway." Philip's elementary teaching of Jesus, St. Peter's and St. Paul's, all, again I say it, included the Sacrament of Baptism as the appointed mode of admission into covenant union with the Lord. Theirs is the sanction for the statement of our Prayer-Book Catechism that the Sacraments are "generally necessary [for all, that is, where they may be had] to salvation"; that as the Articles declare, they "are not only badges of Christian men's profession, but rather certain sure witnesses and effectual signs of grace [accomplishing, i.e., what they signify], and of God's good will towards us, by the which (effectual signs) He doth work invisibly in us." [Article xxv., compare also Article xxvii.] We see then, my brethren (this is the [15/16] point to which I desire to draw your attention), that the Sacramental system of the Church embodied in the Prayer-Book is not only conformable to, but is alone in harmony with, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as given in the Scriptures. The Prayer-Book is the interpreter of Holy Scripture; and the Guide to its use as the manual for the "Administration of the Sacraments," not less than as ''the Book of Common Prayer." If the Sacraments wore omitted or slighted, then the Prayer Book would fall short of Scripture requirements. The Prayer-Book indeed preaches "Jesus," not as a dead Master, belonging to a by-gone age, who once accomplished a great work on our behalf; nor as an absent and far away Lord, but as a living and present Saviour, exalted, in the human nature which He once assumed and never laid aside, to the Right Hand of God in Heaven, but with us by His Spirit all days even unto the end; walking in the midst of the Seven Golden Candlesticks, which represent His Universal Church, and holding in His Hand the Seven Stars, which signify her Ministry; continuing to do and teach through His Body the Church, by the power of His Spirit, as and what He began to do and teach in His own Person on the earth; uniting us one by one to Himself and making us partakers of His Sanctified Humanity, and therein of His Divine Nature, so that of a truth Christ is in us the hope of glory.
Look at the "Table of Contents" at the beginning of the Prayer-Book, and see, my brethren, in the Church system therein declared, the proclamation indeed of Jesus, not as the Teacher only of a sublime morality, [16/17] condemning its hearers, as did the ancient Law, by its very perfection for their unlikeness to itself, but as the bestower of Grace, enabling us to rise up to His requirements, the Author of a new and spiritual Life, the Father of a new family, in Whom we are to be refashioned in holiness according to the likeness of Him that created us. See the Church in her ordinances carrying on the work of the Lord. She takes the little ones in her arms in Holy Baptism, that they may be cleansed from the stain of their birth, and that the gift of natural life may be supplemented and sanctified by the gift of supernatural life, as they are "born again" (or "from above"), "of water and the Spirit." See her train the children thus taken under her care by the teaching of her Catechism, giving to them the rule of Faith, the rule of Conduct, and the rule of Prayer. As temptations increase, and responsibilities are enlarged, she confers upon them, in the Apostolic rite of Confirmation, fuller gifts of the Holy Ghost, to establish their Christian faith and life. See her offering to the faithful, struggling and sometimes downcast, a constant supply of spiritual food for their strengthening and refreshing, the "Meat indeed," and "Drink indeed," of the sacred Body and Blood of the Lord, to preserve their souls and bodies unto everlasting life. See in the Ordinal the pains she takes to provide a continual succession of Pastors and Guides for the care of the people of God; behold her blessing social life and natural relationships in the hallowing of Marriage; see her tender, pious ministrations for the consolation of the sick, the afflicted, and the dying; how she "loves her own unto the end," commending their souls to God [17/18] in their last hour, and their bodies at the grave, in the hope of the Resurrection to Eternal Life. Is not the Prayer-Book, received thus, a true, a precious Preaching of "Jesus," applying Bible teachings and consolations, and the rites which it enjoins to the varying stages and necessities of human life? Must it not be a good work, regarded in this light, to spread the circulation of the Prayer-Book, not only for the benefit of the Church's own children, but that others too who know not her bounteous and motherly provisions may be led to seek and value them?
And the Society on behalf of which I speak to you to-day distributes not a few of its Books among such strangers to our spiritual commonwealth. A Baptist minister applied but lately for a grant of Prayer-Books for the seamen among whom he worked, saying there was no religious book that the sailor so valued, to take with him on the deep, as the Church Prayer-Book. And it is no small honor, I take it, for our Church, it marks no insignificant part of her mission in this land, that her rites for Marriage and Burial, as well as other parts of her Service Book, are so largely borrowed by those who are separated, we may trust only for a time, from her own communion. The Church by her Prayer Book is thus helping to form a right public sentiment on matters of the first importance in social and religious life.
V. There is one other advantage of the Prayer-Book as an Interpreter of Holy Scripture, and a Guide to its use and application, which we must not entirely pass by. I mean the way in which it provides for the practice of duties enjoined in Scripture, but which, without some such definite direction are likely to be neglected. I refer particularly to the practice of Fasting as an [18/19] expression of repentance and a help thereto. Nothing could be more plain to a simple-minded reader of the New Testament, than that Jesus called those who would be His disciples to a life not of self-indulgence, nor of free, unrestrained enjoyment even of things in themselves innocent, but to a life of self-restraint and self-denial. The Apostles' preaching of Jesus certainly included the imitation of the Lord in the patient bearing of sufferings inflicted from without, and in part also self-imposed, in a taking up of the cross as well as in a bearing of what is laid on us. Recognizing the frailty of our fallen nature, and the dangers of the fallen world in which we find ourselves, we are to bring under the body and keep it in subjection, continually to mortify all inordinate, as well as sinful and corrupt affections. Duties of any kind, for which no time is appointed, we all know, are in danger of being altogether omitted. And this, of course, is especially the case when those duties arc repugnant to our natural inclinations. We arc all apt to turn from, to neglect or ignore, the sterner parts of Christian teaching, the more austere features of Christian life;--Jesus has ever (as devout Thomas a Kempis complains) more sharers of His bread than of His cup; many are willing to feast, but few to fast, with Him. How wise then, how very valuable is the appointment in the Prayer-Book in "the Table of Fasts" of certain days and seasons, when we are bidden to use "such a measure of abstinence as is more especially suited to extraordinary acts and exercises of devotion." As George Herbert puts it:--
"The Scripture bids us Fast,
The Church says Now."
 It has been my endeavor to point out some particular ways in which the Prayer-Book is the Interpreter of Holy Scripture, and a Guide to its use and application; to show how truly its system is a "Preaching of JESUS,"--of JESUS, as a Personal, Living, Present, Lord and Saviour, Himself the Pattern and the Mould of our New Life, the mysteries of His Incarnate Life being presented to us as the continual subjects of our meditation, while their efficacy is communicated to us by His Grace.
What follows practically from such considerations? Surely this, First, That it is our duty to set forth the Prayer-Book system fully, to proclaim its teaching boldly and lovingly, seeing it to be so conformable to Scripture teaching, and to man's real needs. It follows that the laity should uphold the clergy and encourage them in carrying out the Church's rules and acting according to her mind. As for instance in the observance of Holy Days, of Festival or Fast, in daily or at least week-day Service, in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, pre-eminently the Lord's Service, every Lord's Day as its distinctive service (as is contemplated in the Prayer-Book in accordance with all primitive usage); in the use of the Offertory as the Prayer-Book and Scriptural system of alms-giving, making the church, God's House, free to all, and throwing the support of its services on the free-will offerings of the worshippers. [This system had been recently adopted in lieu of pew-rents in the church where this sermon was preached, and with marked success.]
It follows that we should endeavor to render the service by reverent, orderly ministration, with appropriate adjuncts of art and music, at once solemn and elevating, worthy of Him to Whom it is offered, and helpful and edifying to the worshippers.
 Secondly, it follows that we should seek (of course in lawful ways) to remove any defects, to supply any deficiencies there may be in the Prayer-Book in order that it may accomplish its work the more perfectly. Such an improvement our Church has sought (and we may fairly say has gained) in the Revised Table of Lessons for use in the public service. To secure, if possible, similar further improvements is the object of the Committee appointed by the last General Convention (at the suggestion of a Presbyter of this Diocese) to consider what alterations, if any, may be made with a view to the Liturgical Enrichment of our Prayer-Book and to increased flexibility in its use. It is well that we should be conservative in our Churchmanship. Innovations are naturally viewed with suspicion, even when they come as professed improvements. But the scribe instructed unto the Kingdom of Heaven is to bring forth from his treasure things both new and old. And we ought as Churchmen to be ready to welcome any well-considered proposal, either for restoring to our Service Book treasures like "the Gospel Canticles," Mary's Magnificat, and Simeon's Nunc Dimittis, dropped at a former time through ignorance and prejudice that have now, we may hope, altogether passed away; or for adapting our Book to many needs and circumstances, for instance in the missionary field, unknown and therefore unprovided for at the time of its compilation.
Thirdly, in the midst of such less personal thoughts let us not lose sight of duties that are still more practical and individual. Having in the Prayer-Book such a treasure, in its devotions and its rules, let us ourselves use faithfully the helps thus offered; let us submit ourselves to its holy discipline, accustom ourselves to its [21/22] reverent ways, and follow for ourselves practices which have the recommendation and sanction of experience so long, so varied, and so trusty.
"Mine is no solitary choice,
See here the seal of Saints impressed:
The prayer of millions swells my voice,
The mind of ages fills my breast."
And lastly, let us seek to spread to others what we value for ourselves. An opportunity to do this, to show our appreciation of these benefits, is given by the Society which appeals to-day for your sympathy and aid. The Margaret Coffin Prayer-Book Society was founded in the year 1856, to perpetuate the work of the faithful and loving daughter of the Church whose name it bears. For nearly twenty years before her death, Madam Margaret Coffin had made it one of her numerous good works to distribute gratuitously the Book of Common Prayer to the poor and destitute. She gave largely herself, and collected money from others for this pious purpose, distributing in her own lifetime as many as three thousand Prayer-Books, mostly without payment.
In the year 1851, as appears by a note in her own handwriting, Miss Coffin placed a sum of money ($550) in the Savings Bank, payable with any sum that might be added thereto, to the Rev. William Croswell as trustee to the Prayer-Book Society which she trusted would be formed; and a few days before her decease (in 1855), she directed two friends to carry on her work, either in the same quiet way in which she had begun, or if, and when, it should seem desirable, by the more extended operation of a Society formed for the purpose. [See Appendix.]
The Society was incorporated in the following year, [22/23] April 24, 1856, with the Rev. E. M. P. Wells as its President, and was named after its real foundress.
During the first twenty years of its existence the Society was much restricted in its work by poverty, Madam Coffin's Legacy being constituted, both principal and interest, a Permanent Fund, and the Society only having the use of annual subscriptions and donations; but by various bequests received in the last five years, the Permanent Fund (thu interest of which is now available for use along with the annual subscriptions of members and other donations) at the present time amounts to $11,500, and thus the Society has the assurance of stability and of moderate usefulness. [Since this statement, the Society has received notice of a legacy from the late Mrs. E. N. Perkins of $1,000.] The sphere and extent of its operations will be apparent from the statement to the Diocesan Convention of 1881, that, during the previous twelve months, 1,017 Prayer-Books, (595 Hymnals, and 50 Mission Services were distributed by the Society gratuitously in the Dioceses of Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Nebraska, and in the Island of Hayti. In the preceding year grants were made in nine dioceses, and books sent also to China.
Among the interesting reminiscences of Miss Coffin's labor of love, I have been told that a few years before her death, she sent a parcel of Prayer-Books to Pitcairn's Island, and received a grateful letter and a piece of cloth made of cocoanut fibre, the work of the islanders, as a thank-offering.
Many Prayer-Books were sent to the soldiers in the war. The late equally revered and beloved President, Dr. Wells, used to tell of a returned soldier who showed him his Prayer-Book dyed in blood, which had turned [23/24] aside the otherwise fatal bullet and saved the life of the bearer, who prized it greatly for its temporal as well as its spiritual help.
Gifts of Prayer-Books are gratefully received by sailors at this Port and at New Bedford, and at the Seamen's Bethel in Boston. In October last an appeal was received from a missionary at Port Austin, in Michigan, where everything belonging to the mission was destroyed by the terrible forest fires of the fifth and sixth of September, and the Society was able to replace the Prayer-Books and Hymnals which had been burned. Instances might be multiplied, but these will suffice.
In commending the Society and its excellent work to your generous sympathy and aid, I would urge the desirableness of increasing the "Permanent Fund" ($20,000 would not be too large a sum), and still more of increasing the number of subscribing members. Membership in the Society (of which the Bishop of the Diocese is now President) is open to all communicants, male and female, on payment of an annual subscription of five dollars.
The Society's resources are severely taxed at the present time by the purchase of new stereotype plates (the old being completely worn out), for a better edition of the Prayer-Book just issued from the press. The offerings at this anniversary, and gifts hereafter sent to the treasurer, will be especially welcome in aiding the Society to pay for this necessary acquisition.
APPENDIX. COPY OF MISS COFFIN'S LETTER.
45 Summer Street, Boston, Nov. 15, 1855.
Since the first of May, 1838, I have been deeply interested and engaged in distributing The Book of Common Prayer to the destitute. It is my desire and request to Anne S. Robbins [her great niece] and my friend Elmira Tarbell to continue the same, at my decease to have whatever Prayer-Books I may leave, to receive subscriptions and donations to purchase more to distribute, to keep up this simple effort that has been made, as it is my earnest prayer that at some future time it may be the moans of forming a permanent Prayer-Book Society, to spread our beautiful Liturgy to all, and give to those to procure it who have not the means or wish to possess such an inestimable treasure. I wish Anne S. Robbins and Elmira Tarbell to use their judgment how and when this little society should be organized, and do what they think best as circumstances occur, or keep on in the same quiet way I have done. Margaret Coffin.
EXTRACT FROM THE SERMON PREACHED AFTER MADAM COFFIN'S DEATH, IN ST. STEPHEN'S CHAPEL, Dec. 2, 1855.
Br the Rev. E. M. P. Wells, D.D., Chaplain.
"I must state a few historical facts respecting our deceased friend. She was born on the 16th day of April, A.D. 1769, and was baptized Margaret on the 17th, privately, in consequence of its being doubtful if she could live to be carried to church. She was born in her maternal mansion, then standing next south-westerly [27/28] of the old Province House, the residence of the colonial governor. This place of her birth she never sold..... She was confirmed by Bishop Seabury, who, on his first visit to Boston, held a confirmation at Christ Church, for the Churches in Boston. Among those presented for the holy rite of Confirmation from Trinity Church by the Rector Dr. Parker (afterward Bishop Parker) was our beloved friend, Margaret Coffin. This was March 29, 1788. What a day, what a time, what a service, what an hour was that! The first American Bishop, holding the first Confirmation in Boston, and among the serious, but happy group, we recognize our late friend devoting herself to God. The beginning of what a valuable, useful life was that her Confirmation; that life which ended but a few days since, Nov. 21, 1855, so peacefully and quiet, like her life, without one painful or unpleasant circumstance connected therewith. . . . During this life of eighty-six and a half years, how little of evil could be associated with her words or deeds! How much, through God, of good! How much of comfort and joy has she caused to others; how many sighs has she chocked, how many tears has she wiped away, and how many has she warmed, clothed, fed, and sheltered! In how many sad faces has she waked up a smile, in how many despondent hearts kindled hope and joy; and how many of the young of her sex has she taught and encouraged to go on to holy womanhood! How many has she taught and aided to pray by her various efforts, and by the distribution of her thousands of Prayer Books; and how many have risen up here, and in Heaven too, we trust, and called her blessed! Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest from their labors. God give to us the blessedness, for Jesus Christ's sake, to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, be glory and honor, dominion and power, for ever and ever. Amen."
Theke is a book which Christians prize,
Next to the blessed book of heaven,
Its word? inspired beyond the skies,
Its faith, the faith by Jesus given.
No crafty work, no hasty zeal,
Was e'er employed in this design.
The blood of martyrs forms its seal,
And Jesus crucified, its sign.
Oh! how I love this blessed book,
Companion of my childhood's day,
For when the course of sin I took,
It taught my infant lips to pray.
Then first I learned that blessed Prayer,
Which little children love to read,
And soon, by help and faithful cure,
The famed Apostles' sacred Creed.
The Ten Commandments next in turn
Were soon engraven on my mind;
"What better precepts could I learn
Than those which God himself designed?
And oh! upon that morn so blest,
That saw the light of glory rise,
'Twas joy, with this dear book, to rest
From cares and life's anxieties.
And now to manhood's sober years,
My life on wings of time has flown.
This holy form I still revere,
And hold its treasures as my own.
Then teach me, Lord, Thy blessed will,
That I may learn Thy Word with care,
And next into my soul instil
The precepts of the Common Prayer.
Jan. 1, 1838.