ERASTUS H. PEASE
Theological Bookseller, No. 82 State Street.
The origin and design of the following discourse, will, it is presumed, be apparent to those who shall take the trouble to peruse it. It is far from attempting a complete enumeration of all the religious tendencies of the age, or of all the topics proper to be treated by the Christian minister. A few examples, illustrative of a large subject, were all that the limits of a single address would permit. Much of that kind of preaching, which must always fill up a large portion of the ministry of every earnest-minded pastor of souls, is, from the nature of the occasion, here scarcely touched; and should it be inferred from what is here said or omitted to be said, that the writer is in favor of frequent references in the pulpit, in a direct way to existing controversies or to passing occurrences, or that he sympathises with a disposition sometimes manifested to be continually recurring to the distinctive principles of the Church, and advocating them in a cold, proud, controversial spirit, great injustice would be done both to his feelings and to his practice. He has a deep sense of the importance of certain principles as the only sound basis of, and safe guide to, pastoral care and instruction; but he is at the same time aware of the danger, in these distracted times, of mistaking a furious party spirit for a humble and holy Christian zeal, and so of being led to substitute an absorbing passion for some of the means, in place of genuine devotion to the great end, of saving souls. May he and his brethren be saved from this awful delusion; and on the other hand may he and they be kept equally removed from the unworthy timidity which would hinder them from exposing any unchristian habit, or wrong tendency of the age. Were it permitted to the writer to express his view of the ordinary duty of a minister of the Church in these times, he would suggest that while pastoral efforts and teaching [3/4] should of course be regulated by sound principles, and while the people should be well instructed in things too apt to be overlooked, yet it is highly important that all should be done, not in a dry, controversial way, as if intended to vindicate and build up a system, but with onction, with direct, and he had almost said exclusive, reference to the bearing of things upon the comfort and salvation of the hearers. All needful truth has such a bearing, and with it alone should the ordinary spiritual guide concern himself. If there ever was a day when it especially became the Christian minister to be firm, but meek, charitable and unselfish, such a one is the present. The conviction is rapidly extending, that if the clergy are to do their appointed work effectually, their renunciation of the world must be a reality. May it become so more and more; and may the blessed fruits of the Spirit be ever more and more visible in their lives, and in the lives of their people.
Among all the solemn duties which devolve upon a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, none will be likely to occasion him more anxious thought, than the duty of deciding from year to year, in what proportions, and in what form, he ought to present to the people of his spiritual charge, those awful verities of Holy Scripture, which are to make them wise unto salvation. If he is a thoughtful and conscientious person, he will not be able to content himself with merely preaching at random such things as may happen to rise up before him, nor such things as may be most easily seized upon to produce a temporary effect, nor yet such things as may chance to be uppermost in the popular mind and surest of popular favor. It will not be enough for him that he says [5/6] nothing which is absolutely contrary to the truth. He will be anxious to set forth all truth, and to set it forth in its due proportions, both as respects the relative bearing and importance of the different parts as they are presented in the word of God, and also as it respects the particular and more pressing needs of the times in which he lives. To keep back entirely any thing which has been revealed for the instruction of sinful men, he cannot but regard as a plain violation of his duty, to "declare, the whole counsel of God," while, on the other hand, to exaggerate the importance of one view, or to disparage the utility of another, to contend exclusively with errors at one extreme, when the whole tendency of the age and country is to errors at the opposite extreme, to administer continually antidotes for diseases that do not exist, which antidotes tend to exasperate maladies every where actually prevalent,, is to do any thing but shew himself a wise and faithful physician of souls. It is not to "shew himself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
Here, then, is a branch of ministerial duty which constantly calls for, the maturest judgment [6/7] and the most steadfast fidelity. Instead of snatching at any topic which may gratify love of display, or love of ease, instead of catering for a known appetite, instead of consulting merely his own private feelings and favorite views, and thus incurring the hazard of imparting to his teaching that narrowness and one-sidedness which is so apt to characterize the operations of a mind depending only on itself, the spiritual Pastor must be constantly casting his eye over the whole range of divine truth, constantly watching the varying shades opinion and practice around him, in order that he may lose sight of no important lesson, and that seeing the diversified wants of men, he may "give to all their portion in due season." While he is most anxious to hold up a mirror, which shall faithfully reflect the whole counsel of God, he cannot but esteem it his bounden duty to use especial care, in exposing and driving away those errors, which are most popular and most dangerous, and in asserting and vindicating those truths, which, at the time and place in which he ministers, there is a prevalent disposition to deny, to undervalue or to overlook. One pastor at least there is, who has always deemed the duties here referred, to as among the [7/8] most difficult and momentous of his sacred office, and who, if he knows himself, has ever earnestly endeavored, not to follow his own impulses, not to shut himself up among his own narrow views, but to embrace in his teaching the whole circle of divine truths, and to insist especially on those, which, from the temper and bias of the times, seemed to be most needed. He may have failed in these endeavors; but it is not because they have not been the subject of much and anxious thought.
If we consider the manner in which the truths and duties of our holy religion stand related to each other, we shall perceive how easy it is for different minds, holding substantially the same great principles, to view subjects on different sides, how easy it is, in a particular time and place, and by particular persons, for one side of these subjects to be much considered to the neglect of a different side, and how important it becomes to a minister of Jesus Christ, who would be faithful and useful, to watch these tendencies, and to endeavor to counteract them whenever they become excessive. Thus, to take an instance, we may contemplate man in reference to his moral and spiritual nature, or we may contemplate him in reference to that physical [8/9] organization, that outward and visible form upon which depends the existence of the spiritual part in this world, and its capacity for happiness and improvement. If we would understand him, if we would do him good, we must take him as he is, a compound being, consisting of soul and body. We may indeed esteem the soul as being infinitely the more precious part, the ultimate object of all our endeavors may be the well-being of that part; but if we forget his physical necessities we shall leave him to perish, we shall drive him out of this world; and if we forget the mighty influence which visible things have in educating the spirit, in tempting it to sin, in dragging it down to groveling pursuits on one hand, or on the other in refining its tastes, in assisting its upward flight, in stretching its conceptions, we shall miserably fail in our attempts to promote it highest interests, to develop its most excellent qualities. On the contrary, to treat this complex being as if there were nothing spiritual about him, to concern ourselves with outward and visible things pertaining to him, exclusively and without reference to their connection with the well-being of the immaterial part within, would be to lose sight of every thing [9/10] great and eternal, and to labor merely for things that perish in the using. A wise man would guard against any excessive tendency to the one extreme or to the other.
Such is the nature of our Holy Religion, as taught to us by our blessed Lord and his Apostles. It consists of soul and of body. It has a spiritual essence, holy dispositions and invisible acts, and it has also an outward organization, outward means and instruments, instituted by God himself, in order that the immaterial part may have a tabernacle on the earth, in order that the hidden workings of holiness may be made manifest and tested, and in order that the feeble existence and efforts of the spiritual part may be excited, aided, strengthened, nourished, regulated by the use of visible things having on them a divine impress and in them a divine blessing. Now to attempt to make all religion a purely spiritual thing--to pretend to despise sacraments and ministries and sanctuaries as gross and worthless things, or to disparage and neglect them as being of little importance, what is this but to be wiser than God, and to put our reason and our will above divine authority? This is one extreme. Again, to suppose that all religion consists in certain external observances [10/11], even though those observances be divinely instituted, to rely upon the mere outward part of sacraments and worship, as a means of pleasing God, while we are blind to the inward part, and make no effort to lay hold by faith upon the thing signified, or to raise our affections to Him whose spirit pervades the Church, this is to forget our spiritual, calling, and to make ourselves worse than the heathen: this is the other extreme. Against both these extremes the faithful pastor will lift up his warning voice. It is hard to say which of the two is the more dangerous. History teaches us that every attempt to discard the body will infallibly lead to the destruction of the spirit. Every pretended effort to make religion a purely spiritual thing has resulted in wild vagaries, in licentiousness and at last in absolute irreligion. We might indeed expect as much from a scheme, which begins in rationalism and self-will, in disobedience and contempt of God's commandments, and which is utterly unsuited to the nature of man. The evil of observances without faith--of sacraments without spiritual discernment of the thing signified, if signs so expressive can ever be used without thought--the evil of this extreme, I say, is sufficiently obvious. The soul is starved even [11/12] while it seems to be fed. And doubtless from the very condition of our existence in this world of sense, it being always easier to walk by sight than to walk by faith, there will ever be such a tendency to mingle to little faith with our outward acts of religion; such a tendency to make them merely formal and unspiritual as will call for continual warnings from spiritual pastors. Such warnings I hope have not been wanting in this place. But the danger will be very different at different times and in different places. Were we living in a country, the entire population of which belonged to the same communion, a country in which it was almost a matter of course to receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper on arriving at a certain age, where it was required to do so as a condition to the enjoyment of certain privileges, we might deem that our chief duty would be to set forth the dignity of those holy mysteries and the great peril of the unworthy receiving thereof. In such a state of things the danger would be, not on the side of neglect, but on the side of inconsiderate and unworthy participation and the exhortations and instructions of the pulpit would be much directed against that danger. But is that our case? Do we live in a country, [12/13] where communion is considered as a matter of course, and where consequently the chief concern of the preacher ought to be to warn his hearers of the inutility of ordinances without faith, to insist continually upon the terrors that beset a hasty communion? He may, and he will announce these truths; but do circumstances in this age and country require that they should be of all things most conspicuous in his teaching? Is our extreme that of coming too hastily to the Holy Communion, and with too much reliance upon the virtue of the mere outward act? Alas! No! There is a vast proportion of our population, who discard the positive institutions of religion altogether; who, pretending to make religion a purely spiritual thing, look upon sacraments as idle ceremonies. These opinions infect multitudes who do not belong to the sect. [It is probably safe to say, that at least one-half of the people of this Christian country are at this moment unbaptised.] Then on the other hand there is another very large class of persons, who have been taught to look upon the Holy Communion with a superstitious dread, who cannot be persuaded that a sincere desire and intention to do the will of God with the aid of his grace, is [13/14] enough to justify them in approaching the Lord's Table, unless they have been conscious of high and unwonted emotions, indicative of sudden and mysterious transformations. Multitudes reject utterly the system from which these false notions are derived, who, nevertheless cannot so far shake off the influence of early impresions and surrounding opinions as to be willing to discharge that great duty and enjoy that great privilege of the Christian life. [There are other means of promoting holiness and securing the purity of the Church, besides frightening people away from the Holy Communion, or hurrying them to it after a brief period of excitement!] Three years ago, this painful feature in the religious condition of our country was observed by the calm and sagacious Bishop Griswold, the holy man, who was then presiding bishop of our Church, and was made by him the subject of some admirable remarks in the Pastoral Letter, which it fell to his lot, as senior bishop, to address to our communion at large.
When, therefore, notwithstanding the exceeding prevalence of such errors as those to which I have adverted, I hear teaching, which tends, on the one hand, to encourage undervaluation of the sacraments, under pretence of enforcing [14/15] spiritual religion, and on the other, to increase the, dread with which the sacraments are regarded, under pretence of guarding them from profanation, I cannot but feel, that the preacher has mistaken both his position and his most important duty. Instead of "rightly dividing the word of truth," he seems to me to be contending with errors the very opposite of those which most afflict us, and to be using language the direct tendency of which is, to confirm the false impressions every where prevalent around us. The qualifications for communion, the essential principles of holiness, and the importance of looking to the great objects of faith, whenever we approach sacraments or prayer, should always be distinctly and frequently presented. But it should be remembered that we do not live in a country, where communion is a matter of course and universal. We live in a country full of heresy and schism, where the reigning errors are, on the one hand, unbelief in sacraments, disregard of the positive institutions of religion, and on the other a superstitious dread of the Lord's Table, which repels from it many who, but for this dread, would hunger for its spiritual sustenance, and gladly give themselves wholly to the service of God. Against these [15/16] errors, therefore, it would seem to me to be the duty of a minister to witness strongly and frequently; and on all other occasions to use language so guarded and qualified as not to incur the hazard of increasing a great and present evil in his attempts to guard against an evil comparatively trifling and remote.
Let me mention another subject, which is apt to be viewed from opposite sides by different persons, and in regard to which, if the Christian minister would "rightly divide the word of truth," he must consider the peculiar tendency of the age and country in which he lives. I allude to faith and obedience, as conditions of salvation. Rightly considered, they are inseparable; the union of the two constitutes holiness, just as the union of the soul and body constitutes a man. It is just as impossible that a true and perfect faith should exist without works, as that the soul should continue in this world without the body. The first act of faith will be a work; and on the other hand, a work, which is not prompted by faith, it is quite evident, can have nothing religious about it. The very idea of obedience implies that there is faith. When, then, it is said, that we are justified by faith, a living and operative faith is intended--a faith which, in its own [16/17] nature, includes the idea of obedience. Faith is the condition of justification, the instrumental cause, because it is the means whereby we are brought into union with Christ. Footnote ["Because faith doth directly send us to Christ for remission of our sins, and that by faith given us of God, we embrace the promise of God's mercy, and of the remission of our sins, (which thing none of our other virtues or works properly doth) therefore scripture useth to say that faith without works doth justify." [And again: "And because all this is brought to pass through the only merits and deservings of our Saviour Christ, and not through our merits, or through the merits of any virtue that we have within us, or of any work that cometh from us; therefore, in that respect of merit and deserving, we forsake, as it were, altogether again, faith, works, and all other virtues." ["For our own imperfection is so great, through the corruption of original sin, that all is imperfect that is within us, faith, charity, hope, dread, thoughts, and words, and works, and therefore not apt to merit and deserve any part of our justification for us. And this form of speaking use we, in the humbling of ourselves to God, and to give all the glory to our Saviour Christ, who is best worthy to have it." Third Part of the Homily of Salvation.]. The meritorious cause of our justification, or pardon and admission to a state of favor with God, is the passion and death of our blessed Lord. In some places we are said to be justified by his blood. In the early preaching of St. Paul to the Romans, when the Jewish portion of that church was to be weaned from its reliance upon the works of the ceremonial [17/18] law, and the Gentile portion was to be taught the hopelessness of their condition by nature, and both were to be harmonized and reconciled to each other by shewing them that both alike were dependent upon the sacrifice of Christ, the apostle preaches faith in Christ as opposed to the works of the ceremonial law on the one hand, and as opposed to reliance on natural virtue on the other. At a later period, when Christians had become confirmed in their attachment to their new calling, and when the earnestness with which faith had been preached at first as the one thing needful was beginning to create the false notion, that faith alone, mere belief in Christ without obedience, was enough to justify, to secure the favor of God, then St. James sets himself to oppose this monstrous delusion, and declares in bold and startling terms, that a man is not justified by faith, but by works. In all this there is no difficulty or contradiction. St. Paul puts faith for the complex of all Christianity. He sends men for the means of obtaining reconciliation with God, not to natural religion, not to the Jewish religion, but to "the faith of Christ," to the gospel, where they find that Christ is "the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him," that "in Him they have redemption, through his [18/19] blood, even the forgiveness of sins;" and that if they would have spiritual life they must "live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved them and gave himself for them." St. James means by works which justify that holiness which will bear the scrutiny of the great day--works wrought in faith and through the power of the Holy Ghost. His idea of works includes faith just as St. Paul's idea of faith includes obedience. But it is easy to see, how, in later times, when teachers began to theorize, and to arrange themselves in parties, one class should have come to insist much upon faith, while another insisted more on obedience, each becoming more and more exclusive in their views, and falling into that one-sidedness which is so natural to the human mind.
Now it may be true, as has been asserted, that in some ages, and in some communions, there has been an unscriptural reliance upon works as meritorious in themselves apart from the sacrifice of Christ. From this extreme, however, there has been, at many periods and in different places a great reaction, inclining men to insist exclusively upon faith, as something opposed to works, and as a principle, the genuineness of which was to be tested, not in the scriptural way, [19/20] by obedience, but by certain internal feelings and impressions known only to the individual himself. Thus Christians were put upon watching, not their moral and religious conduct, not the exactness and thoroughness of their obedience as measured by the law of God, but their hopes and fears, their frames and fancies; because from these they were to judge, whether they were in a state of salvation. Under such teaching multitudes have been known to exult in assurance of the favor of God and in certainty of final acceptance, who were guilty of the blackest crimes. The days of Cromwell saw rebellion, treachery, robbery, murder and sacrilege, and private immorality all perpetrated in the name and under the garb of religion by this class of Christians. Their principles and habits found their way into this country; and if we look over the length and breadth of our land, it would not seem to me very difficult to decide, whether the predominant tendency among us, is, to unchristian reliance on the merits of works as a means of salvation, or to trust to something which is called faith, to certain convictions, emotions, mental exercises, as a ground of religious confidence prior to, and apart from, any act of obedience. Are there not thousands in this country, who would feel troubled [20/21] about their spiritual condition, if their feelings ceased to be elated, if their mental exercises were, not vivid, but who can leave wrongs unredressed, duties undischarged, who can slander and circumvent, without the slightest abatement of confidence in themselves? They judge of themselves, they satisfy themselves that they are in Christ, not by examining their hearts and lives by the rule of his commandments, but by observing their internal frames and feelings, their convictions and emotions. Let it not be supposed, that I am bringing charges against other denominations of Christians. No man esteems their general probity and piety more highly than I do. I refer to a subtle spirit of delusion, which pervades our whole religious atmosphere; and I say that the extreme, to which we tend in this age and country, is, not to undue reliance upon our works, but to over-confident reliance upon our feelings, convictions, internal persuasions; something which we call faith, very erroneously, and which being obtained, satisfies us, without leading to thorough holiness, or to any sacrifices or efforts corresponding to the greatness of our hope, to the example of Christ, or to the lives of primitive Christians. In another age and country it might be necessary to insist much upon the truth, that works are nothing out of Christ, nothing without faith, nothing at any rate, as a meritorious ground of acceptance with God. Even here this great truth should not be, and I trust is not kept out of view; but it seems to me, that he who would "rightly divide the word of truth," he would oppose those errors, that are most prevalent and most perilous at present, should look, for the most part, another way, and explain the real nature and operation of faith, shewing that it is not mere belief in one truth, the forgiveness of sin through Christ; but belief in all revealed truth; in the precepts, promises, principles of holiness; belief in the positive institutions of the gospel, and in a Judgment according to the deeds done in the body. Christ should be ever as the sun in the centre of the system; but it should be Christ leading his faithful people to walk as he walked, and to live as though their kingdom were not of this world, with a zeal in good works in some degree proportionate to their mercies and their hopes. Now my brethren what is the fact? How does the church now compare with the church in the beginning? I have often described the manner, in which the primitive Christians used their wealth, and spent their time. Are we professors of the same faith, prisoners of [22/23] the same hope? Alas! how many Christians are there, who are hoarding and spending, with as much eagerness and self-indulgence, as were ever evinced by a heathen? The Church and the Poor scarcely receive the crumbs that fall from our table. Devotion is languid and expiring. Instead of praying twice a day in the house of God, we are scarcely willing to pray twice a week--every where we see a tendency to exclude religion from our working time and to crowd it into mornings and evenings, and Sundays! "Rightly to divide the word of truth," at such a time as this, is, to set forth "Christ as the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth;" and then to exhort earnestly them that "believe," that they be very "careful to maintain good works" to purify themselves from all pollution of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.
Within the last few years it has been extensively charged and believed, that in a portion of our Church, there is a leaning to Romanism. It has been alledged, that insidious attempts are made to change the doctrines of the church, that new practices are introduced, and that there is no longer any security for the stability of our faith. It is indeed said in answer to [23/24] these charges, that the practices objected to have nothing to do with Romanism, but belong to Christianity at large--that most of the persons suspected of a leaning to the Papal communion, continue to witness against its errors as strongly as ever, and that the conversions from that communion to us, both in this country and in England, are more numerous than the changes in the opposite direction. In the late General Convention of our church, sixty-two errors were specified, as doctrinal corruptions, which it was charged had been introduced into our communion. A clerical member of that Convention, of standing and intelligence, replied that he had conversed and was intimate with, many persons, to whom extreme views were imputed, but that in all his life he had never met with a single individual in our Church, clerical or lay, who held any one of these sixty-two errors! Similar declarations were made by others; and before the Convention adjourned, it became so convinced that these imputations were gross exaggerations, and that there was a wonderful degree of unity among them, that they passed a strong resolution expressive of their gratification. Still prejudices and prepossessions are not easily reasoned with, and the [24/25] eccentric sayings of a few individuals, insulated extracts, produced without explanation of the sense in which the writers used language, without the counter and qualifying passages to be found in other parts of their works, are very easily employed to excite vague and alarming suspicions. Considering therefore the condition of the public mind, it was natural, that occasion should be taken, when another Pastoral Letter was to be issued, to reassert the old established principles of the church, especially as they stand in opposition to the errors imputed to the Roman communion. And it is plain, that a formal document like the one read to you last Sunday afternoon, which was written by the senior bishop, and allowed to pass by all the rest, ought to be received as good evidence that our church occupies, in relation to the Papal communion, the same position which both it and the Church of England have always occupied. Indeed the truths contained in that letter are, rightly understood, so plain and so universally maintained by the members of our communion, that, but for the imputations just referred to, it would have seemed scarcely necessary to occupy a document issued so rarely, with a republication of them.
 One of the errors witnessed against in the pastoral, is, "reliance upon the merit of works, in opposition to, or as a substitute for, reliance upon the meritorious sacrifice of Christ for salvation. I am sure it will be a satisfaction to you to hear me say, that I never met with nor heard of, a clergyman of our Church, holding that error, or manifesting the least tendency to favor it. I never met with, nor heard of any clergyman of our Church who ever dreamed of seeking for any other meritorious ground of pardon and acceptance with God, but only the Passion and Death of our blessed Lord. I do not believe that one such exists. The universal sentiment is, that if works are to be pleasing in the sight of God they must be wrought though faith in Christ, by the operation of the Holy Ghost--they must be bedewed with the precious Blood of Him who alone can take away the sin of the world. The error to which I believe there is a tendency, at the present day, in connection with the precious doctrine of justification by faith, I have already alluded to. It is the error of supposing, that there is some kind of contradiction, not only between the ceremonial law and the gospel, but also between the moral law and the gospel; so that a person who can persuade himself [26/27] that he has faith, comes to feel almost, if not quite, as if the law of God did not apply to him--as if there were to be no judgment for him, at least as if the motive to self-denial, to good works, to earnest efforts after real holiness, were less constraining under the gospel than under the law. This error is not perhaps distinctly avowed; it is a secret poison which infects the minds of many, who would sincerely disclaim it, but its influence is to be perceived in not a few of the habits, modes of thinking and speaking which pervail at the present day. "There is indeed no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus;" but the evidence that we abide in Him is this: that we walk as He walked and that we bring forth much fruit.
Another error witnessed against in the Pastoral Letter, is that of supposing that Christ is sacrificed anew in the Holy Communion. Monstrous error indeed, whoever may hold it! Here again, I am sure you will be glad to hear me say, I do not believe that there is a single clergyman of our communion who ever has been in the slightest danger of falling into it. I certainly never heard of one who ever made the least approach to it, or who would not look upon it with horror. That the Holy Communion is something [27/28] more than a mere memorial, is indeed, and always has been, the doctrine of the Church, and the doctrine of most other Protestant communions. The Reformers, who denied the material presence of Christ in the sacrament and who sealed their denial with their blood, were, every one of them, as earnest and as resolute in asserting the real spiritual presence of their Lord in the consecrated elements, as they were in denying the material presence. That there is an offering made unto God in that holy rite, that there is a spiritual sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and that the "body and blood of Christ are spiritually taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper," we are plainly taught by the Church, in her catechism and in her communion office. In stating these truths, she contents herself, as the Church has done from the beginning, with repeating the very words of Holy Scripture, without presuming to pry into them, or to explain them away. And God forbid that I should call up these Holy Mysteries in this sacred place, or in any other, for the purpose of rudely bandying them about in the way of disputation! Let us only be admonished, that our dangers, in these days, in regard to the sacraments, lie all on the side of low views, of unbelief [28/29] and of neglect--and let us watch and pray accordingly.
The only other error, which, in the Pastoral Letter, it was deemed proper to vindicate the Church from the charge of holding, is, the error of elevating the Fathers, the first great Christian writers, to a coordinate and equal rank, as to authority, with the Holy Scriptures! Here again I am most happy to be able to say, that I know of no such error in our Church, nor yet in the English Church:. I am sure there is not a clergyman in our communion, who would not spurn such a doctrine as the vilest heresy. Even those persons in the English Church to whom extreme opinions have been imputed, would be shocked at the idea of entertaining for a moment any such view. What! the Fathers an authority coordinate with the inspired word of God? Considered as speaking directly and unerringly from the Almighty, as the sacred scriptures speak from Him? I will not speak for others--but I will venture to assert in the most solemn manner, that such a thought never entered the mind of a single member of our communion. The doctrine of our Church, and the most that has ever been maintained by any of her members, is, that, in disputed questions of interpretation [29/30] of holy scripture, having reference to the great articles of our faith, the interpretations that were first, and for ages universal, are to be received as true, while those which are later, are proved to be false, by the very fact of their novelty. And then the Fathers, the early Christian writers, are introduced merely as witnesses, to shew what that first and universal interpretation was. These witnesses are as fatal to Romanists on the one side, as they are to the thousand novelties and heresies on the other. To these witnesses our Church makes frequent appeals, in her articles, in the preface to the ordination service, and in the book of Homilies. Reject these witnesses, reject historic evidence, reject the voice of that Christianity which was first and for ages universal, and the stability of the faith is undermined--the Church of the living God is no longer the "Pillar and Ground of the Truth." She can no longer "have authority in controversies of faith," to use the language of our article; the interpretation of Holy Scripture, the most precious doctrines of our faith are left to private fancy and opinion. Reject all external evidence and authority, and he who is most plausible in wresting Holy Scripture to his purposes will carry the multitude away with him. And now let [30/31] me ask, my brethren, where does our danger lie? Look at Mormonism, look at Millerism, look at the thousand inventions that torment and delude our land, and say, whether our error be extreme reverence for the authority of the Church and of Antiquity! Alas! it is because men reject all authority but that of some favorite leader; it is because they forget, or are ignorant that the truths of Christianity are facts, established by competent evidence, not matters of mere opinion, it is therefore that they run wild in heresy and wrest the scriptures to their own destruction, and to the destruction of their hearers. Believing as I do, that our error, is, not excessive deference to the teaching and the witness of primitive Christianity, but entire neglect of it, I cannot but deem it my duty to put you often in mind of it, not with a view of substituting any other authority in the place of Holy Scripture, but of honoring and protecting Holy Scripture, by shewing that its meaning is established by evidence, which in every other branch of knowledge we are in the habit of deeming conclusive.
I am done. My brethren it is my bounden duty to oppose those errors which are most prevalent and most perilous--and to present those truths, which from the state of the times [31/32] I believe to, be most needed. "I must study to shew myself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." If I sometimes seem to insist too much on certain views of truth, bear with me: it is because I believe them to be necessary for these times. Give me generously your confidence, and it shall be my endeavor never to betray it! The Lord being my helper, I am determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I am determined to set forth the truth in no other wise, than as the Lord hath spoken it, and as this Church hath received it! May it be accompanied by the power of the Holy Ghost; and may it prove abundant for the comfort, sanctification and salvation of the preacher, and of all his hearers!
 ALMIGHTY God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, JESUS CHRIST himself being the chief cornerstone; grant that, by the operation of the HOLY GHOST, all Christians may be so joined together in unity of spirit, and in the bond of peace, that they may be a holy temple acceptable unto thee. And especially, to this congregation present, give the abundance of thy grace; that with one heart, they may desire the prosperity of thy holy apostolic Church, and with one mouth, may profess the faith once delivered to the saints. Defend them from the sins of heresy and schism; let not the foot of pride come nigh to hurt them, nor the hand of the ungodly to cast them down. And grant that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness; that so they may walk in the ways of Truth and Peace, and at last be numbered with thy saints in glory everlasting, through thy merits, O blessed JESUS, thou gracious Bishop and Shepherd of our souls, who art, with the FATHER and the HOLY GHOST, one GOD, world without end. Amen.