H.A. FAIRFIELD, PRINTER.
The design of a Charge to the Clergy, as it is interpreted by usage, would seen to be the elucidation and enforcement of evangelical truth or ministerial duty, not so much in their common and general applications, as in connection with those special topics, which, from time to time, may present themselves with most urgency.
At the present moment, few thoughtful men in our ministry can fail to have meditated on several questions of passing interest, which, when they are faithfully followed back, are found to reach down to the roots of our ecclesiastical system. How far are we prepared to meet the spiritual wants of our country and our generation? Does our Church possess and exercise every power of expansion that must belong to the Church of Christ? How far can it consent to satisfy those who love a highly symbolical ritual, rich with the adornments of consecrated art, or those who are attracted by an exact and ascetic mode of personal discipline? How far, on the other side, can it adapt itself to the spiritual tastes of those who would indulge to the utmost "the liberty of prophesying" in the social meeting, or who delight in the burst of jubilant song under the open sky? Can it protect itself against secret Popery, or against incipient Neology? Is it to be wished that it should erect any additional barriers, or give additional strength to its ancient bulwarks? Are the parties which stand within it, side by side, permanent necessities, or temporary accidents? Is it better that they should be organized bodies, or does such organization tend towards ultimate schism? Can the whole Church act together, in the support and administration of its Missions, its Sunday Schools, and its other labors of love? If not, what are to be the limits of its combined efforts; and how far shall all which lies beyond be left to individual choice, or conducted by voluntary association? These, and a multitude of similar inquiries, are continually, in one form or another, crowding themselves upon our view, arresting our attention, and ever demanding our decision and our action. They mingle themselves with the delicate relations in which the individual minister or layman stands towards Christians of other names, and towards their united endeavors in the cause of benevolence. They touch the sacred [3/4] responsibility which is exercised when we admit to Baptism, to confirmation and to the Lord's Supper. If the strongest views be adopted on both sides of many of these questions, and if the grounds and limits of concession and co-operation be not well understood, there is no extent of dissension, no chasm of separation, however formidable or disastrous, which is not conceivable in the future. If, on the contrary, the true basis of that union which our Church offers and upholds, be thoroughly appreciated, no nobler destiny has ever been before any portion of the great, sacramental host of God.
Upon some basis every society must rest. I do not now speak of the source of its authority, but of its scope, its limits, its plan; how much it is to accomplish, whom it is to embrace, and what it is to require of its members by virtue of their very membership. The basis of any particular Church may be viewed in several relations; amongst which are those which belong to its special history; those which mark it as a part of the universal Church of Christ; and those which it has in common with every Christian denomination. Historically, theoretically, and even denominationally, if such a term may be allowed, it has certain principles at its foundation.
Historically, my brethren, the Protestant Episcopal Church is the same body with the Church of England. When these States were English colonies, the very same parishes which now compose our communion, were, so far as they then had existence, parishes of that Church, subject to its laws, and served by its ministers. The Church of England was, historically, a national Church, the same which had been planted in that land at the introduction of Christianity amongst our Anglo-Saxon fathers. Its doctrine had been darkened, and at the Reformation was scripturally restored. Its submission to the See of Rome had been like that of the rest of western Europe; and at the Reformation, the yoke was broken. But from the time when the people of England became a Christian people, they had been united in one Church, and all who do not admit the authority of the Pope to annul the decisions of nations, must admit that the national Church of England, after its Reformation, was the same body with the national Church before.
Whatever was done, either before or since the Reformation, in the organization and arrangements of that Church, was done for a whole people. A national Church is not necessarily one that yields any undue influence to the civil power; nor is it necessarily intolerant or even exclusive. But it is one which, while it has the general assent of the people, or of their rulers, makes a provision for the religious wants of the whole country. It divides it into parishes; it supports sacred edifices; it assigns and sustains a minister for every district. Such was the attempt of every Church at the Reformation; and the Churches of Germany, Holland, [4/5] Switzerland, and Scotland, though without episcopacy, established each a system that should be held sufficient for art entire nation or province. Whatever difference may have been afterwards permitted or tolerated, none was anticipated; provision was made for none, in the original ecclesiastical system of each country. Nor is this less true of all but one or two of the colonies which, a century after the Reformation, were founded on these shores.
In thus providing for the spiritual wants of a whole people, wise and good men, charged with a trust of such infinite consequences, would make it their first principle, that the system which should be established should distinctly teach and display all which is indispensable to the spiritual health and salvation of mankind. If they did less, their guilt would be such as no words could adequately express: it would be as if they had monopolized the seed of all future harvests, and then, before distributing it to the husbandmen, had deprived it of its vitality. He who should maintain that the Prayer Book does not teach directly, fully and as clearly as it can be taught by the common language of mankind, all which its compilers and enforcers deemed necessary to the souls of men, would pronounce on those venerable fathers and statesmen such a condemnation as is not written against the name of the worst of tyrants.
But a second principle would and did guide them, in subordination to this. They never expected that they could settle a complete unity in religious sentiment. They knew that from the beginning it had been a charge of Apostolic authority to receive the weak in the faith, but not to doubtful disputations. Such disputations were by no means unknown when the Book of Common Prayer was issued. The minds of Christian men were in a ferment. Few or none of our more recent controversies had failed, even then, to kindle a warm interest. The men who had been trained under the theology of the schoolmen, and who afterwards studied the writings of Melancthon and of Calvin, were quite as familiar as any divines of our day with the several opinions which have been agitated concerning the will, predestination, grace, regeneration, justification, and the sacraments. They had to decide for themselves, sometimes at the peril of the stake and of the loss of all; they knew the divisions amongst the Reformed; and they had also a kind and charitable regard to that large mass of their countrymen who still adhered with unenlightened zeal or in simple torpor to the errors of their education. It was the duty of those who at such a time prepared a system for the instruction and the worship of a whole people, to reverence all which they found already in reverential use, if it was not corrupt or dangerous; to embrace all the true servants of God, if it were possible without involving the common safety or the sacred truth; to avoid all needless occasions of strife within the Church, or of separation [5/6] from its communion; and not to raise walls of partition, which, while they might keep one section in the most complete purity, would exclude all the others. That the Reformers of the English Church succeeded entirely in this task, I do not now say; for they were surrounded by difficulties which are not known in calmer times; and they could not well anticipate one class of objections, which has proved most fatal to their design of wide comprehension; a class hardly known in earlier ages; the objections which are raised against uniformity itself. But they certainly intended and endeavored to lay foundations no narrower than those of that Christianity which all the Reformers had in common with one another, and with the primitive ages; and they were even aided in some directions by the very circumstances which in other directions may have been a hindrance. Much which was then proposed was left incomplete through the anxieties of statesmen and rulers; and whether this were or were not on the whole an advantage, it certainly did prevent that exercise of ecclesiastical discretion which might have rendered the edifice at once smaller and more rigidly consistent. They would not permit it to shut out the early Puritan. They desired not that it should bid either the Lutheran or the Calvinist stand afar off. They would not even repel the conforming Romanist from its communion, but only from its pulpits. It was to be the Church of a Christian nation; and as such, it could not needlessly, or even for the sake of a more exact utterance of doctrine, narrow its embrace.
As a simple matter of history, it will not be disputed that the Church has been thus eminently comprehensive. Whether it be a reproach or a praise, it is certain that it has made room for as wide a range of opinion as is found between the school of Hoadley and Paley and the school of Andrews and Ken. Many able and pious men, who were Presbyterians under the Commonwealth, like Lightfoot, Reynolds and Kidder, submitted readily to Episcopacy on its restoration. The founders of Methodism claimed to the last to be the truest ministers and expositors of the Church of England. Those who have left it for the Romish communion, have claimed, almost till the day before their secession, their right to be held faithful to its apostolic standard. Others who have given up almost every thing of the Christian doctrines of atonement and inspiration, except the words, still remain within the Church, till they are compelled, in all consistency, to forego the words themselves. That, at a certain line, several of these classes would resolve on separation, must result from the maintenance of any doctrine or discipline in the Church: principles absolutely contradictory and also fundamental cannot be developed and flourish together. That, up to that line, the varying tendencies could exist and operate, within the same communion, is a decisive proof of the largeness of its plan, and of the impossibility that it should become the mere organization of a school or party.
 Many a tempest has passed over those venerable ramparts. Many a shame and sin have polluted the courts that ought to have been pure from the corruptions of the evil world. But two charges were never brought against our Church, with justice or even with injustice. Never was it assailed as having erased from its standards any of the great, vital truths of the Gospel; and never as having banished from its communion, I do not say from its ministry, for inferior causes, any to whom these truths were precious.
Such have been, in the history of the Church, the principles on which it has actually erected its system; and we now proceed to the statement that thus it must necessarily be, in the theory of the Church Catholic.
"There is one body." The prayer of the Redeemer for all who should believe in Him was that they all might be one, as He and the Father were one. Such unity in love and in the Spirit must tend to express itself in the unity of outward communion. Whatever may have been the necessity, in the lapse of ages, for many of these divisions which now separate Christians, even on the same spot, they were no part of the original plan, nor can they be viewed by any one who has the mind of Christ, without pain and regret. But were there no such divisions; were there but one rule and one type for all, as there was but one at the beginning, it would necessarily be that under which all the sincere servants of our Lord Jesus Christ could be admitted and arranged. Of that universal Church it would truly be said, that there would be no terms of communion which are not terms of salvation; and each of its members could speak, in the homely language which was once adopted by a great man, "He that is good enough for Christ is good enough for me." For it could not then remain for one who should be rejected from any one portion of the body for the sake of any rule of faith or practice, to seek elsewhere the privilege: the same law would meet him every where. As, when the Roman Empire embraced all the lands which were known to its subjects, a crime against the State, which, in other ages, might have resulted in banishment or escape to some neighboring territory, could but be fatal, because the Empire and the world were one; so exclusion from the Catholic Church, were it actually, as well as ideally, one simple body, would be equivalent to separation from every privilege of Christian fellowship and every ordinance of the Gospel. The power that could pronounce such a decree would be very different, and would be exercised with a different degree of awe, from that which only compels a Christian to transfer himself to another communion with which he has stronger sympathies. No more would be demanded of the believer, to entitle him to take and hold his place amongst Christians, than just so much as would be indispensable to prove him a Christian; and no opinion would be sufficient ground for his removal or separation from the Church, which would not leave him outside of the covenant of mercy. The province of the teacher, [7/8] however, might well be bounded by far more rigorous restraints. To teach is no general privilege, no necessity for the soul of him who teaches; and he is to be called to that office only when it is for the common good; and, therefore, as more of knowledge, so more of accuracy in doctrine, may well be required of him than of the ordinary believer. The collective Church might exclude from the office of teacher any number of good men for even the slightest defect, so long as others were not wanting to enter on the harvest; but it could never shut out from all Christian fellowship one single follower of the Lamb, without abusing its power and contradicting the very purpose of its existence.
Still more characteristic of the Church as one Catholic body would be the maintenance of all necessary truth; for, if this could be otherwise, the gates of hell would have prevailed. That which one part may have lost or endangered, in the present state of things, another part may have preserved in its purity; but were the Church Catholic thus simply one in form and fact, this distinction of parts would be at an end: the defect of one region would be the defect of all; and that truth and holiness which we now rejoice at finding where the Gospel is most faithfully held and taught, would then either be the marks of the whole or else effaced from all alike. Whatever good was not in the universal Church, must have quite departed from the earth. If any human power could be imagined as really legislating or deciding for the whole Church; a work which, indeed, in some sense, was attempted by the General Councils of antiquity; with what an awful anxiety would such a power ward off any blow which might seem to be aimed at the heart of the Christian faith! How watchfully would the danger be shunned of omitting any vital truth from statements which might touch the very salvation of innumerable multitudes! At every step, the first, great solemn care would be to teach, as matters of faith, all necessary truth; and the second would be, to impose, as conditions of communion, no unnecessary burdens.
Every Church which holds fast the idea of any unity of its own with the Holy Catholic Church, must propose to itself the same principles of action which would thus govern the whole body. It believes itself, in a certain sphere, to represent that Church and its catholicity. When a heathen man, or a Jew, or an unbeliever, brought to the knowledge of Christ, knocks at the door of such a particular Church, he does not ask to be baptized into that particular Church, but into the Church of the Redeemer. The responsibility which you assume and the terms which you announce, are those which belong to admission not within this or that gate, but into the great, everlasting temple. You dare not baptize him on the profession of less than what the universal Church proclaims to be contained in the baptismal form; and you would be afraid to require of him, as a condition [8/9] of his entrance, more than what you hold in common with all Christendom. We then fall back from all more recent, more narrow and more distinctive landmarks upon the common inheritance; and as no man, whatever be his distinctions of country, rank or aspect, can have so much dignity from all these as from his first, simple manhood, so no Christian is so honorable under any other name or character, as under that which he has derived directly, and like all other Christians, from his Master. Thus it becomes the necessary profession of every Church that claims catholicity, to teach all its members whatever is requisite to salvation; and absolutely to require of them no more as the condition of their fellowship.
Historically and theoretically, these principles are at the basis of our ecclesiastical system; but denominationally, if I may employ the term, they may not be equally obvious. A denomination may take to itself any name, however narrow; may originate in any cause, however local, occasional or accidental. It claims only to include those who hold a certain opinion, or prefer a certain usage, or are descended from certain ancestors, or admire a certain teacher. It does not pretend that all Christians ought to be within its inclosure; and, therefore, it may be, as to its own government, exclusive and rigorous. If you do not agree with it, the world is wide; there are other denominations to which you may withdraw: go in peace. This is the strictly denominational position: it does not necessarily involve uncharitableness of feeling; but it is fatal to all largeness and comprehensiveness of scope in the body which asserts for itself no higher character. It is very possible, too, for members of our Church to view themselves only in this light, as adherents of episcopacy, or of liturgical worship, associated together by that bond, requiring of no man to join them, and free to make their distinctive rules as stringent and as exclusive as may seem good for the preservation of their own peculiar position.
A denomination, as such, however, must suppose itself to assert and teach the whole of those truths, of which the knowledge or belief may be essential to the salvation of the soul. It usually supposes itself to maintain something more; but so much, at least, it cannot cease to vindicate to itself, or else it would be afraid to challenge a place, much less a preference, among the armies of the Lord. It could not discharge the very first functions of a Christian Church, if it allowed that it did not possess within itself all which will assure the believer that he is "a very member incorporate in the mystical body of God's dear Son."
No denomination, on the other hand, can consent to be regarded as renouncing all charity. Not arrogating to itself the position of the Catholic Church, it can be at the same time exclusive and liberal; exclusive in fencing in its own fold, and liberal in granting that beyond it all means of salvation and all graces of the Spirit are found abundantly. Thus it [9/10] escapes the necessity of enlarging its own embrace beyond the principle which gives it its name and distinction; while at the same time it asserts the broader principle of Christian comprehensiveness. To do otherwise would be but the very fanaticism of sectarian feeling. If our Church, therefore, should be viewed, as sometimes it most inadequately is, as the denomination of Episcopalians, of Protestant Christians asserting the rule of episcopal government, or of liturgical worship, it would still be bound in duty not only to maintain and teach all necessary truth, but also to adopt one of two courses towards those who might not accede to the authority of such government or the expediency of such worship. I say one of two courses: for I take it for granted that no man supposes a belief in either of these principles to be of the nature of a condition of salvation; and if any one did, he could not even for a moment admit the representation of the Church as a mere denomination. In that character, the Church would of necessity recognize some freedom to believe or doubt its own distinctive system; would admit as a fact, that all good Christians had not been constrained to adopt it, by their judgment and conscience. Then, it must either allow within its own communion a considerable latitude of opinion and practice, or it must acknowledge the right of others to form separate communions without guilt. The result of both courses must be to display, in the same manner, that two-fold basis of our ecclesiastical system which we have before. seen to be historically true and theoretically necessary, and which we now see to be even denominationally unavoidable; the basis of truth in things concerning which no true believer can doubt, and of comprehension in all things beside.
Let us now, my brethren, if we are satisfied that such is, and must be the actual basis of our ecclesiastical system, proceed to some reflections on some of the questions, to which allusion was made at the commencement of this address, and which can only receive a satisfactory decision, when this basis has once been justly and thoroughly settled.
From the first principle of which we have spoken, that within the Church, and open to all its members, all necessary truths are taught, all necessary means are employed for their salvation; it must follow that they have no need to go out of it, or to form within it any more limited body, a Church within a Church, under a stricter rule, or a purer instruction. If the Church do less than this, it is not a Church within the definition of our XIXth Article; "a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same." But if it do this, its sufficiency is established; and though there may be errors which call for reform, and improvements and aids which may be manifestly desirable and practicable, yet, nothing is in any [10/11] degree required, which comes into conflict with the office of the Church; and nothing is absolutely indispensable beyond a faithful, prayerful observance of all which the Church teaches from the word of God. A Church maybe untrue to its calling and its standards. It may err even in matters of faith. It may be crowded with corrupt teachers, who display no honest picture of its doctrine. Its members may be slothful, worldly and unbelieving. There may be strong and adequate reasons why they who fear the Lord within its communion, should speak often, one with another, in meetings and conferences, for which it has made no provision. It may even be so far governed by a bad and persecuting spirit as to drive out from its bosom the best of its children. There is somewhere a point at which separation itself may become more than excusable; it is the point which was reached at the Reformation in those countries where the authority of the Church was in direct and most cruel hostility against the Bible, and the readers of the Bible. But this point is the very same, I apprehend, at which a Church becomes so far infected with an anti-christian spirit, whether in doctrine or in government, or in both, that it no longer fulfils the first condition of its office, that of holding and teaching all necessary truth; for it is much the same thing, whether the truth itself be abandoned and denied, or whether it be so fastened to falsehood that the one cannot be received without the other, and then be made compulsory on the conscience, with the added terrors of excommunication and the gallies or the stake. When that point is reached, the time has come for revolution, separation, or any other violent and effectual remedy. Conscience makes then its appeal to God. But so long as the Church maintains and teaches all which is needful for the salvation of its members, and of course in that degree of purity which is thus needful, no one by whom it is faithfully obeyed, can be justly charged with departure or deficiency. If the Church be a sufficient guide, he who follows its guidance honestly, must be safe. I must be permitted to add, that the instruction of the Church, if it is to be sufficient, must be sufficiently distinct and precise. You must not call upon me to receive on her authority, that which she has not deemed important enough to utter it fully and unambiguously. The interpretation of a creed or other ecclesiastical formulary, is, in this, by no means to be regarded as subject to the same laws with the interpretation of the Scriptures. God reveals to us but partially, and, in His infinite wisdom, may envelop any portion of any truth in mystery. He knows what we can bear; He may test our faith; and none can say to Him, "what doest thou?" But the Church is composed of men, who have no right to conceal even partially the truth with which they are entrusted, and who have it perfectly in their power to utter clearly what they intend to inculcate. If the Church has not spoken decisively and definitely, it is as if it had not spoken at all. Its members [11/12] must not be told that they violate its doctrine or its discipline, unless the transgression be such as is disputed by no honest and well informed observer. Besides, the Church is a living body, and capable of deciding now whatever may have been left in doubt by its former determination. As long as it does not, no doubtful interpretation can rightfully be employed to require of any one of us, in the name of the Church or of Churchmanship, that which the Church has not seen fit to place beyond all question.
But while we assert the sufficiency of that which the Church has clearly established or recognized, the practice is to be deprecated, of attempting to silence a theological opponent by appeals to the decision of the Church, even though it were or seemed to be clear, rather than to the Scriptures. It does not satisfy his judgment, nor move his heart; it does not convict him of error in the sight of mankind; and, at the utmost, it can but drive him from our communion. That is scarcely to be expected, and certainly is not to be desired, except at the extreme point of unquestionable contradiction to vital truth. Till then, what can it avail to contend over the meaning of our formularies? What if you should have succeeded in placing a good man in the position of doubting whether he might not be differing from the Reformers, or from the mass of the Church, or from its ritual, while at the same time he is not convinced that the word of God is not on his side? Do you really wish to force him into this attitude? Is it not much better to meet him on the ground of Scripture; since, if you prevail there, all is won; and if you do not prevail there, the authority of the Church can never produce conviction?
From the very first principles which have been stated, it results that the Church must embrace within itself no small variety of opinion. If such a variety exists among those who love our Lord Jesus Christ, it is no shame to a Church of His, that the same variety should exist amongst its members. God forbid that it should be otherwise! It forms the distinctive mark of a sect, that in it on one point at least, which is not fundamental, all must think alike. It should be evident in the character of a Church, that on no point which is not fundamental, does it make this requisition. I speak still, you will observe, of the members, not of the teachers. Many a man in the State may be unfitted for official responsibility; but every one has a right to the common protection of the laws. Many a man in the Church might need great instruction and correction before he could guide his brethren, yet every one who so believes that he is saved, has a citizenship in the kingdom of heaven, which should be recognized by his admission to every sacramental privilege.
If the question be still asked, what shall be the limits, the lawful limits of this diversity which we thus anticipate and defend?--we can but farther point to history. Good men like those who have lived and died in our [12/13] communion, generation after generation, should be still its ornaments. Time has erected boundaries which cannot be changed, and it is now too late to say of any school which has actually flourished in the Church, that it has no right to be there. Is this the language of indifference to those doctrinal questions which have been agitated within its bosom, and which at this day seem sometimes to place ardent disputants as far apart as the east and west? No some of these questions are deeply serious, and involve everything short of the very foundations of our most precious hope in Christ Jesus. But, so long as these foundations are not directly and wilfully assailed, so long as these are questions on which men of spiritual minds and sanctified hearts can differ, and have differed, it is better that they should be discussed within the borders of the Church, than elsewhere. For it is an easy matter to divide; but oh, how hard to reunite! Men modify their opinions daily; excited passions become subdued; time and experience do their work; constant association with brethren of the same communion, opens the heart to charity and the mind to candor; and the individual and the age are thus kept free to allow themselves to be moulded by the truth, without resistance; and all the while, the calm authoritative voice of the Church is heard above all disputations, saying, when they approach usque ad aras, "thus far but no farther."
The liturgical arrangements and usages of the Church, are matters of its own legislation and appointment. "It is not necessary that traditions and ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's word." (Art. XXXIV.) Our book of Common Prayer is so endeared to all of us, and so worthy of all our deepest reverence and affection, that it is easy to forget the true nature of its authority. It contains, indeed, the primitive Creed, the Psalms of the Old Testament, the Epistles and Gospels which for many centuries have been the same throughout large portions of the Church of Christ, the Anthems, Collects and Lit any which have come to us from the early days of the Gospel; but as a whole, and in its present form, it has not been, is not, and never can be the liturgy of all Christendom. It has, in that form, existed but three centuries; it has been repeatedly revised; and, all beautiful as it is, it rejects the claim that it can never receive additional fitness, expansion or excellence. The authority by which it was made the uniform ritual of a great communion, was, in the mother country, that of the rulers of the State as well as of the Church; and by this united authority it was substituted for more ancient arrangements, which had been corrupted with doctrinal errors, hung round with trifling ceremonies, and closed up in a tongue "not understanded of the people." Since the rites of united worship can never be regulated [13/14] by each individual worshipper, the authority to give language to public prayer must reside somewhere; and "whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren." (Art. XXXIV.) This authority belongs to "every particular or national Church," because it is so essential to the maintenance of unity and of true doctrine; and with us it is in the Bishops of the Church and the representatives of the clergy and laity of every Diocese. How, or how far it shall be exercised, must rest with them, under that guidance of the Holy Spirit, which they are called most fervently to implore, when they thus provide for the future distribution of the bread of life to millions. But, my brethren, the obligation is twofold. It is not merely to furnish no rule of worship that shall involve the danger of misleading the souls of men, but also to meet as far as may be, all spiritual wants, and leave nothing undone which is within the due sphere of liturgical arrangements. It is not merely to give all which is needful, but to furnish no just occasion of complaint or murmur. The venerable Hooker, defending the Common Prayer, as it stood in his day, against the unreasonable objections of the Puritans, did not feel, when at last a reasonable demand was suggested, that there was need of forms of thanksgiving beyond the Psalms and Canticles. In later revisions, the Thanksgivings, both general and special, have been added; and who values them less or esteems them less sacredly precious, than any other jewels in that rich treasury of devotion? It is surely the duty of the Church, as exigencies arise, or wants are manifested, or sincere, reasonable and general calls are heard, cautiously and even slowly, as beseems the gravity of the task, but still without fear or reluctance, either to add such forms as may be requisite, or to leave the addition to individual liberty. If too, at any time, any numerous body of Christians should be found willing to annex themselves to our communion, without difference of doctrine or of orders, but retaining their own liturgy or their own customs of worship without a liturgy, certainly we could have no right to make Christian communion depend on liturgical uniformity, but must receive them with all gladness. Would that the idea were more than a dream!
In the mean while, there is room for some indulgence towards the preferences and tastes of congregations and their ministers, in the performance of divine service. I say of congregations and their ministers; for the worship of hundreds ought not to be subjected to the fancy of one. But if there be congregations who indeed desire a somewhat larger introduction of music, or somewhat more of ceremonial minuteness, I regret their wish; I say, with the poet;
 "Gorgeous! yet love I not such pomp of prayer;
Ill bends my heart amidst such pageantry;"
nevertheless, their wish, within the limits fixed by the security of right doctrine and the instinct of a sober piety, may be gratified without violation of our safeguards. Where right doctrine is endangered, as in the practice of a superstitious reverence towards the altar, or when a symbolizing spirit degenerates into puerile trifling, the "godly admonitions of the Bishop and other chief ministers" should be heard, and they should be sufficient. If any should desire to practice for themselves an ascetic discipline, without enforcing it on others, why should we not say, as the apostle said, "he that eateth, eateth to the Lord, and giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks?" If, on the other hand, meetings for prayer and edification should be any where desired, beyond the ordinary services of the. Church, we need pronounce no censure. They may, or may not be desirable; but there is nothing in their nature or in the system of the Church, which should require the condemnation of practices observed in different ages by many holy men for their own profit.
It may still be asked, how then can the Church impose a liturgy at all, or require the observance of its rubrical and canonical rules, thus hemming in the liberty of the individual conscience? To place the question in the strongest light, how can any body of men, acting in any capacity, decree that assemblies of their fellow-men and fellow-christians shall absolutely be forbidden to call upon God in such words as they may deliberately prefer? While we are a comparatively small company, my brethren, especially if we seem to ourselves but a voluntary society, this question may be unheard; but it could not be evaded always. It is not enough to say that you are free, if you like not these restraints, to go elsewhere; for the conscientious believer in the apostolic episcopacy is not thus free. There is no necessary and universal connection between the communion of "the Holy Catholic Church" and a particular liturgy, or indeed any liturgy, beyond a few scriptural injunctions and original usages. Conformity to the Book of Common Prayer was required and defended in England, on the ground of obedience to the laws of the national Church and of the nation. With us it is freely promised by every minister, at his ordination, and by every parish at its organization or admission. There is no complaint that a heavy burden, too grievous to be borne, has been imposed or undertaken; the liturgy is strong in our universal love. But it is exceedingly plain that, since its authority is that of ecclesiastical legislation and consent, not of divine dictation; that of our local Church, not of the Church universal; that of the period since 1789 or 1548, not since the first century, it is an authority which should rather prescribe so much than forbid every thing beyond; which should be employed rather to restrain disorder and fancy [15/16] than to coerce the judgment or conscience; and which, under few circumstances, should display itself in an attitude so unbending as to provoke a murmur. The deliberate wish of any numerous and respectable portion of the Church for any rubrical relaxation or for the permission to make additions, not involving doctrinal error, appears to me an adequate reason, in itself, for such relaxation or permission, unless it be opposed by the very weightiest considerations of unity or order.
It is a question of practical urgency, how far such a Church shall collectively undertake, and how far it shall leave to the voluntary action of individuals or associations, the support of Missions, and the supply of tracts and manuals for Sunday School instruction and for benevolent circulation. That missionaries ought to act under the sanction of the collective Church of which they are ministers, seems quite as clear as that any Church which is not lost in corruption must be supposed competent and disposed to send forth missionaries whose labors will be a blessing, more or less large, to the heathen abroad or the destitute at home. It ought to be taken for granted, that the body which does the greater act can properly do the lesser; and that the admission of men to the ministry, is a pledge of their fitness to discharge the duties of the ministry. To say that those general or diocesan authorities, which must be trusted with the most sacred functions, are not to be trusted with those of a much inferior character, is to suppose a prevalence of something approaching to apostacy; and I hope that the day is very distant when the Church, as such, will be declared unequal to any of its first and most obvious duties, amongst which I conceive one to be the general organization and regulation of its Missions. An individual, however, or a society, may as properly designate a spot for a mission, or select and support a particular missionary, as build a church, and choose and sustain its minister. It should seem also that, in preparing a ritual and a catechism, the Church undertakes the work of instructing its little children in that truth which will make them wise unto salvation; and what, in comparison with these, are books of Sunday School stories? It is, of course, impossible that the Church should become responsible for the publications of private authors; and I am free to express my doubts whether it would not be better to leave each author to his own merits, affording, through depositories, the opportunity of purchasing easily any book which comes within a wise construction of the design of Sunday School libraries. Except small tracts and manuals, any book which can ever be widely acceptable will find a publisher, without leaning on the treasury of a Society. At the same time, the perfect right of any number of persons to associate themselves for the publication as well as the sale, of religious books, is not for a moment to be questioned, and it is far safer that it should be in the hands of such voluntary associations, than in those of the [16/17] Church itself. When ware dissatisfied, we withdraw from the association; but the Church cannot expose itself and its authority in defence of any book, except its standards.
The universal freedom of the members of the Church to associate for any useful and religious purpose, must be asserted, whether their associates be exclusively within their own communion, or be also from other Christian bodies. It is a freedom which they have never relinquished and are not called to relinquish, by any divine injunction, by any established usage, or by any specific agreement. In particular circumstances, it may or may not be judiciously or charitably exercised; but it must be absolutely maintained, unless the Church should reduce itself to the narrow tyranny of a sect which admits or excludes at its pleasure.
The Church of Christ does not make its own terms of communion. They have been left it by its Lord. It can require neither more nor less than repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. It can prescribe no other tests of the truth of these than a profession unstained by evident proofs of insincerity or by habitual ungodliness of life. Other security must be sought in diligent and faithful instruction; but it was never the intention of our Lord to afford to his Church the power of effectually closing itself against all admixture of worldliness and corruption, still less against the feeble faith which is still but as the grain of mustard seed, struggling into more vigorous vitality. Where the straight and narrow road, the necessity of bearing the cross, and the dangers of hypocrisy and of apostacy, are duly and plainly held up to view, it is little to be feared that there will be any rash and untimely pressure towards the altar at which we "offer ourselves, our souls and bodies, a living sacrifice." The Church must be faithful, faithful to the uttermost, in declaring the whole measure of duty; but it must not attempt to raise any barriers, doctrinal or practical, which would preserve the purity of a few at the expense of a denial of the means of grace to the many. It is by no means evident that any Christian communion, in practice, secures a higher rule of religious consistency than our own. But if it should be true that this should be attained by any such body which holds itself free to exclude some who should be within for the sake of excluding others who should be without, to root up wheat for the sake of rooting up tares, it is no honor to them, and no reproach to us, except what we share with the apostolic Churches.
In a Church which rests upon the two principles of requiring all that is essential to the maintenance of saving faith, and of absolutely requiring no more for its communion, there is no room for the charge of doctrine fundamentally false, as between its members, without involving the charge of unfaithfulness to itself. They may err, but while they have any title to be there, they cannot fail to hold the very substance and heart of the truth [17/18] as it is in Jesus. They may want the spiritual mind, the eye of inward faith, but certainly their doctrine cannot be fatally wrong, if it include the doctrine of the Church, which is vitally right. Within such a Church, there may be and must be different schools of opinion and practice, as well as a great variety of individual views and characters. To insist on classifying all under two or three broad names, is only to amuse ourselves with an appearance of system, and to trifle with the facts; for men adopt or reject parts of systems, they transfer themselves from side to side, and they often stand, a complete chain of regular links, extending from one extreme quite to its opposite. The thinker, however, may arrange them, with more or less distinctness, in schools; and contingencies occur, when they are drawn or compelled to act as parties. There is no reason, my brethren, for dreading above all things the imputation of being what are called party men, on special subjects and occasions. At times, they who think alike must act together; just as at times the citizen must draw the sword, even against his fellow citizen. But these are unnatural scenes: scenes to be deprecated and shunned at any price but that of duty left undone. They ought not to be lengthened out and made perpetual by armed organization. I blame no man for taking, in any great ecclesiastical question where action is demanded, the side which answers to his deepest convictions, with whomsoever he may thus be found; and if, lest he should act with a party, he bely those convictions, he is a timorous traitor to his conscience. Nevertheless, I would counsel every minister not to bind himself beyond the immediate question; for it is indeed a humiliating spectacle when good men of the same communion are arrayed in bands whose very principle it is to recognize no good in each other; when every other interest is swallowed in that one which perhaps holds those together who are in mind and heart as widely various from one another as from those whom they oppose; when the sympathies which are freely and justly extended to Christians of other communions are habitually withheld from those of our own; when every book, every measure, every discourse, is judged beforehand, not by its merit, but by its source; when they who must kneel at one altar, unite in one imposition of hands, sign the same solemn documents, meet in the same sacred councils, and do all together which appertains to their holiest character, that of a Christian Church, yet seem to have a nearer, dearer and more intimate relation in which they cannot commingle; the relation of parties within that Church, pledged to unceasing and universal rivalship, up to the very edge of ecclesiastical separation. Let such beware lest they should provoke the taunting or doubting inquiry, What is the benefit of communion where there is no fellowship?
My brethren of the Clergy, in the remarks which have been addressed to you, there may be much which may seem at the first view, less convincing [18/19] to your minds; than to mine. Perhaps that reflection which every consideration prompts you to give to all this range of important topics, may lead to a closer harmony. But in the few words with which I shall close, there is no room for doubt, and I am sure of your fullest concurrence.
All thoughts of the Church of Christ must be guided and limited by the knowledge of' His great purposes and commands. He came to save, not to condemn. This was His commandment, that we love one another. All thoughts of His Church which are not as large and as loving as these purposes, must be imperfect, if not more perilously erroneous. Let me beseech you to drink in the spirit of Christ, and to be entirely assured that, so far as you do not judge in love, you are certainly mistaken. Any other and narrower views of the Church, its offices and its duties, than those which are suggested by the charity that seeketh not her own and rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth, are necessarily at variance with the will of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. Grace be with them that love Him in sincerity. Those He loves; for those He prayed; and it is well often to ask in the midst of all these inquiries, how would He decide, if, like His apostles, we could bring our difficulties and lay them at His feet. They would not have suffered little children to come to Him; they would have sent away the Syrophoenician woman: they murmured at the waste of the alabaster box of ointment; they asked whether they should call down fire from Heaven, like Elias; they forbade the man who cast out devils, but followed not with them; they marvelled that the Lord talked with the Samaritan woman. In each instance they were severer than He, and in each instance they were wrong. We must follow Him rather than them, and "receive one another as Christ also received us."
We must look also, with all directness, to the salvation of the souls of men, as the end for which the Church has its existence. There are ten thousand lesser benefits; and undoubtedly the single honor of God, and the fulfilment of His good pleasure, would be a sufficient purpose to justify His wisdom in these arrangements of His Providence and grace, as well as in so many of His works in nature, even though no advantage were visibly reaped by mankind. But, when He declares His design, all other interpretations are at an end; and nothing can well be more certain from the New Testament, than that the word, the sacraments, the ministry, the fellowship of the saints, all which is embraced within the idea of the Church, exist primarily that the Gospel may be preached to all nations, and that believers in that Gospel may be, by the power of God, kept and trained up unto salvation. If it be so, then by this rule must the Church be read. It fails of its end if it fulfil not this purpose; it is untrue to its Lord, if it do not labor to fulfil it; and all its beauties, its order, its dignity, its harmony, its very truth, all are subservient to this. If we ever come to regard it as [19/20] our own property, or as an establishment which we can easily consent to see confined within the limits of a small portion of society, or as anything less than the community which God has instituted, that He might add to it such as shall be saved, we do it wrong; we mistake its very foundations. It was not meant to please your taste or mine; and that it was the Church of the fathers of any man, gives it no higher claim than might belong to a false Church, or a false religion; they also are hereditary. It must stand, not with guards all around, to repel all, as intruders, except those who are already its inmates; but with gates wide open, and heralds crying aloud, "all things are now ready," and compelling all to come in, who are willing to be the guests of the Great King. Let there be no arrangement, through which one soul shall perish, for whom Christ died.
Is it going too far, my brethren, to speak of caution that, in all such discussions, in the adoption of the opinions to which they lead, and in the action which may be founded on those opinions, we proceed with strict honesty of mind, and open sincerity? Those who engage in controversy are often afraid to speak the entire truth; they dare not make admissions; they hold it needful to maintain an aspect of firmness even when they are really shaken. This is too much the condition of all Christian bodies; and a habit of reserve, a dread of remote consequences, a sense of weakness in our position, restrain us from following our own best feelings and holiest impulses. "The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans;" and so we "pass by on the other side," till the Lord has better taught us who is our neighbor. My brethren, let us not fear to do justice to all, nor seek to defend the truth or the Church by any arguments which they may disclaim, and on which our own hearts place really no reliance. Nothing will abide at last but the truth itself. It is a fearful thing to live in a disguise; to walk as if we distrusted those whom indeed in our hearts we revere; to seem as if the conscience were interested where there is nothing beyond opinion or taste; and even to make divisions in the Church of Christ, for mere want of candor and high integrity. Who can doubt that if the best men of all schools in our communion could come together, with perfect opennesss, they would see eye to eye, and heart would answer to heart, in all which each of them truly holds most precious? Who can doubt that if the best men of all Christian communions could thus meet, and could he entrusted with due powers, the schisms which have remained for ages, would in a few days cease?
Death opens our hearts, and brings the truth to light. Standing on the edge of the grave, whether we minister to the dying, or contemplate our own end, or are ready to return from the last duties to the departed, we simply say, "one thing is needful." We feel but one fellowship, and it is one which embraces all the just. If at such a time, it is touching to see [20/21] how all that was merely earthly in our divisions, is buried and forgotten, and faith, hope, and charity assert their sole triumphant dominion, and spread their white wings for a more heavenly flight, it is also humiliating to remember how till then it has been possible to dwell together, not in unity, but in misunderstandings and strifes which it needed but this glimpse of eternity to dissolve. Oh, let us not so live and labor, that we shall be compelled as we approach our account, to unravel the toil of years; that we shall be estranged till we enter Paradise, from those with whom we are there to rejoice forever; that our work shall be destroyed, though we ourselves should be saved so as by fire; or, most wretched of all, that having been set as watchmen on the walls of Zion, we shall be found neither to have entered ourselves, nor to have suffered those who were entering, to go in!