IN compliance with the requirement of the Canons of the General Convention, and in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution of this Diocese, I avail myself of this opportunity to deliver another Charge to the Clergy; and, as a theme which may present topics of interest to our brethren of the Laity also, I invite your attention to a consideration of THE DUTIES OF CHURCHMEN IN THESE TIMES.
Almost every preceding period of the church's history has been marked by some peculiarity, indicative of corresponding duties; and so is the present, in which our lot has been cast. The age of the Apostles, including that which immediately succeeded it, commonly called primitive, was one marked by simplicity, fervent devotion, and holy activity; when the disciples, under the fresh anointing of the Spirit, reflected the pure light of the newly risen sun of righteousness, and at the same time impressed upon the new religion those features of truth and holiness which made it the model for all future ages of the church, and the standard by which they must be tried. The primitive age was followed by one, in which a mystical philosophy corrupted the faith by its speculations and by mingling its Lethean streams with the pure waters of the sanctuary. This was succeeded by one in which prelatical pride and priestly ambition kept pace [3/4] with advancing corruption of doctrine, and superstitious debasement of the ritual and devotions of the Church, preparatory to that long night of ignorance and vice which rendered a reformation indispensably necessary to the preservation of the true faith from utter extinction, and to the restoration of anything like the simplicity and purity of primitive days. The light which broke forth at that glorious era was received from the long lost Bible; the lying legends of monkery were confronted by the restored teachings of Revelation; and the human mind, so long imprisoned and fettered, was redeemed and disenthralled. The Reformation was, to the Church, as "life from the dead." But that event, so auspicious in its results to humanity and to the world, like all great revolutions, was not unaccompanied with calamitous results.
As a consequence of the release of the human mind from thraldom, and the permission of free inquiry, corrupt vagaries were indulged--and seed was sown which, in the evil soil of fallen humanity yields that harvest of schisms and heresies, division and strife over which infidelity exults while true piety pours forth its lamentations. True faith, however, inspires us with confidence that He who brings light out of darkness, and order out of confusion, will overrule all these evils, so as eventually to promote the highest good of His church and the glory of His name.
In our own branch of the Church Catholic, one, who, like the speaker, has been familiar with her history for the greater part of half a century, has had occasion to notice the different phases she has presented and the evils which have befallen her. Those phases and evils bear some resemblance to those which have marked the more [4/5] protracted existence of the church universal. She had to pass through a long period of infancy, on a foreign shore, amidst over-shadowing hostile influences, denied some things which were essential to her integrity and vigor, and allowed to keep up a bare existence upon very stinted provision. Her anomalous position at the close of the civil Revolution, deprived of accustomed supplies, abandoned by many of her clergy, with churches vacated and altars deserted--having few to estimate her spiritual privileges and benefits, and exposed to the scorn and vituperation of the multitude--as affiliated with the oppressive power whose yoke had been cast off, it is a marvel that she did not perish in the struggle. Had her origin been earthly, and her gifts and powers no more than human, she would have perished. But the indestructible seed was in her, and she survived the fiery ordeal. She still lives: and we trust in God, will continue to live, as a perpetual witness for God's truth, as a home of the friendless, and a refuge for the wanderers; as a divine messenger to announce the unchanging doctrines of the Gospel, to dispense hope to the penitent, consolation to mourners, and to point out to the successive generations who are to people this continent the path to Heaven, by proclaiming Him who is "the way, the truth,and the life." Our Church has had her seasons of calm and of storm, of coldness and warmth, of formalism and revival. She was once agitated by party strife and controversy, and afterwards blessed with a season of repose, tranquility and unity, such as was seldom seen on earth; when, as by a new Baptism of the Holy Spirit, all parties were fused into one;--when all hearts seemed actuated by one common purpose of zeal and energy in the cause of missions.
 It is not to be denied that a change, a mournful change has come o'er the scene, dimming if not eclipsing the lovely spectacle to which we have just adverted. Errors of excess and of short-coming have sprung up. While some would push us beyond the boundaries established by the Reformers into the waste and howling wilderness of speculation, under the pretence of our finding a clearer light and breathing a freer air:--others would send us back again beyond those barriers into the regions of darkness and bondage. Apostasies have taken place on the right hand and on the left; and there is a sad propensity in many minds to run into extremes. Distrust and division exist to a lamentable extent among different classes and schools of Churchmen. Christian love and even gentlemanly amenities seem to be forgotten in the fierceness of party strife. Such is the blindness and stupidity of party zeal that, in the clamour of controversy, the strutting Hebdomadal heroes who lead the battle on either side, seem never to reflect that, this conflict, for life or death, is between classes who are partakers of one Baptism, confessors of the same faith, participants of one altar, who unite in the use of the same forms of daily prayers. We may therefore hope and believe that as the depths of the ocean remain calm and undisturbed when its surface is lashed into foam and fury, so the great body of the church remains undisturbed, notwithstanding the froth and commotion which the agitating small-fry produce by their superficial struggles.
Instead of trembling with apprehension in looking for those things which are coming upon the earth, and fearing that the church will be shaken to its foundations and perhaps utterly overwhelmed, we should rather look [6/7] up with faith and hope "to the hills whence cometh our help." Knowing that the hour of deepest darkness ushers in the dawn; that the calm is preceded by the tempest: that the rainbow follows in the wake of the gust; we should confidently rely upon the Power which "rides upon the whirlwind and directs the storm;" we should deliberately ask "what are the peculiar dangers of these times--and what are the duties which they imperatively enforce upon us?"
1. The peculiar DANGERS of these times.
Ever since the fall of man in Eden, a controversy has been going on between truth and error, light and darkness, holiness and corruption. The war between the Seed of the woman and the seed of the Serpent has been incessant. From the beginning, revealed religion and infidelity have been struggling for the ascendancy.
On every field of fair argument the battle has been fought and the victory won. The assailants of our holy religion, from Julian and Celsus, to David Hume and Voltaire, whether they employed the philosophical or the historical argument;--whether they depended upon the power of logic or of wit; whether they relied upon metaphysics, or poetry, upon grave syllogisms, or upon sarcasm and raillery, were alike overthrown by the veteran defenders of the Christian citadel, Their lances were shivered, their darts fell pointless or broken from its impregnable walls. The assailants were covered with defeat;--and ever since the days of the Academicians, Christianity has been free from those direct and positive assaults--which admit of positive answers and open repulsion. The enemy has been driven to the adoption of a new policy and a thorough change of tactics. The use of the open battery has been forsaken, [7/8] and the insidious arts of sapping and mining resorted to. Satan transforms himself into the semblance of an angel of light. Under the garb of philanthropy he goes forth upon his destructive mission; with deceptive theories of philosophy and human fellowship, he wins his way to the confidence of the well wishers of their species, until they are cajoled into a substitution of the theories of socialism, for the doctrines of Christianity, and of vain schemes for ameliorating the temporal and moral condition of humanity, for the ordinances and institutions of that Divine economy which conveys to men the blessings of grace and conducts them in the pathway to glory.
The subtle, insidious poison of skepticism diffuses itself not only in the large tomes which treat of Geology, Natural History and Astronomy, which affect to sketch the vestiges of creation" with a view of showing that there is no Creator--but it is also sprinkled through those pages of romance and strains of poesy which charm the taste of our children and youth--till, like mesmerized birds, they fall into the throat of the serpent deceiver. Many of those who do not thus miserably perish, continue to flutter about the vortex, blinded and maddened by the mephitic vapours of Pantheism or Transcendentalism.
In close affiliation with the spurious schemes of philosophy and socialism which aim to prove Christianity useless, and thus to undermine and destroy the citadel of our Holy Religion, we may name those endless forms of heresy and schism by which the Christian profession is disgraced and made an easy prey to the power of the enemy.
 In addition to the direct and positive influences just mentioned, so palpably hostile to the cause of Truth and Godliness, we may advert to other dangers arising out of the spirit of this utilitarian age--connected with the secular history of the world--which are adverse to the interests of piety in the church. It is emphatically an age of enterprise and activity. The inventions of genius, science and skill, have vastly increased the means of accumulation; and the bosom of the earth itself pours forth gold in uncounted treasures. The ample reward of talent in secular pursuits, presents an irresistable allurement to those just entering into life, and tempts too many even of our pious young men to shrink back from the self-denial, mortifications and poverty of the clerical profession, and to follow those honourable and gainful avocations which almost certainly lead to comfort, affluence and luxury. The rich gains connected with worldly pursuits, produce in the minds of the laity a greedy desire of becoming hastily rich, which interferes with that fervent devotion, and self-denying godliness required by the Christian profession; and, in not a few, begets that avarice which is a gangrene of the soulthat "covetousness which is idolatry," and that "love of money which is the root of all evil."
We have thus adverted to the leading dangers and evil influences to which the church is exposed in these times and in this country. They are Infidelity--false doctrine, and division; old, but corrupt superstitions; and worldliness. Let us then consider in this order,
II. THE DUTIES of the Ministers and members of the church resulting from those dangers.
1. Has Providence cast our lot in times when a shallow Philosophy and "science falsely so called," asserts [9/10] its claims to the confidence of mankind, when the deadly poison of infidelity is artfully infused into many popular works of science and much of the ephemeral literature of the day? The evil is to be counteracted, not by ignoring the sciences, even those which are most liable to abuse; nor by putting literature under the ban of proscription; but by those deeper draughts from the well of science which yield purer waters than those which are found upon its surface, and by the cultivation of a taste for that classical literature in which the gifts of genius are sanctified by the spirit of faith, and its brightest gems are offered as adornments for the altars of religion.
Does a mawkish philanthropy devise its panaceas for the moral evils of society--and by the various devices and schemes of socialism profess to elevate the physical, intellectual and spiritual condition of humanity? Let us the more zealously advocate and more vigorously prosecute that revealed system of benevolence, which, originating in divine wisdom, is admirably adapted to all the varieties and vicissitudes of man's earthly lot; and by presenting God's love to us as both the motive and example of our love to our fellow men, has proved itself, by long experience, an infallible remedy for human woe, a sure promoter of social bliss.
Are there those in our day, who, in the spirit of knavery or folly, or a combination of both, set up mesmeric influence as a substitute for divine inspiration, and affect to hold direct communication with departed spirits in the most ludicrous manner--thus undermining the faith of the vulgar and lessening their reverence for spiritual truths and realities;--and are there men, calling themselves Christian, who doubt the plenary inspiration of the Bible, and subject this sacred volume, [10/11] as they do other books, to the test and scrutiny of human judgment;--how are these infidel vagaries and tendencies of the age to be repelled? How, but by fighting over again our battles with Infidelity--by a careful, and thorough investigation of the evidences of Christianity; by making our people acquainted with the immoveable foundations of our faith; by proving the plenary and exclusive inspiration of Holy Scripture, and by vindicating its claims to supremacy as the word of the living God--the only sure guide to heaven--the only infallible source of authority in matters of belief and practice.
2. In addition to Infidel tendencies and influences by which the Church is endangered from the ungodly world without and around her, there are also dangers to which she is exposed from the distractions and corruptions that exist in the ranks of professed Christianity.
Does the spirit of commotion, misrule and radicalism, which, in this revolutionary age, has been rampant in. the civil institutions and political governments of the world, also display its baleful influence in the departments of morals and religion? Is there a spirit of faultfinding with old principles and fixed institutions, and venerable usages;--an impatience of authority, and an eager thirst for novelties and for untried experiments even in the domain of theoretical and practical Theology? Do many in our day look upon the system of revealed religion precisely as they do upon a scheme of earthborn ethical philosophy, capable of being modified, improved or changed by the will or the wit of man? Is our lot cast in a country and an age where and when the principle of individualism has reached its fullest development--so that every man "has a doctrine, an interpretation, a song"--and, as a consequence of the [11/12] utmost latitude of free inquiry and private judgment, is the land filled with legion sects, conflicting creeds, and rival factions: all quarrelling with each other about their respective peculiarities, and yet each claiming to have the one Lord, the one faith, the one baptism--and all demanding of us approval and fellowship as pure and sound branches of the Church of Jesus Christ!
What is the duty of the Ministers and members of our Church, as witnesses for truth and godliness, in the midst of surrounding heresies and schisms? This is a delicate and difficult question, which should be answered only in the spirit of meekness and wisdom. Yet it is a question which will daily force itself upon our attention, and in reference to which we should adopt some fixed principle by which our practical course must be governed. There are indeed shades of error, and gradations in departures from the truth. We are not to place all sects in the same category, nor to treat all the forms of untruthfulness as equally malignant and dangerous. We should carefully discriminate between errors in fundamental doctrine and mere errors of discipline; between deviations from apostolic institutions and wide departures from "the faith once delivered to the saints." Nor must we, under the pretence of contending earnestly for the faith, violate the paramount laws of charity. We should give our neighbours credit for all the truth they hold, respect them for all the virtues they possess, and sincerely wish grace, mercy and peace, to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." We should make a distinction, in our regards and feelings, between a Christian man and the defective views of religion which he may have embraced through the influence of erroneous education, or from want of examination. But at [12/13] the same time our charity "should rejoice in the truth;" it should not be so ample in the dimensions of its "cloak," as to cover false doctrines which are deadly to the soul,--nor possess the fatal power of neutralizing the opposites of truth and error, or of bringing heresy and orthodoxy into affinity with each other. The much lauded policy of bringing the Church into close alliance and accommodation to the sects proves as fatal to her sound growth and prosperity, as the making sincerity the test of truth is false in principle.
If we believe the Church to be "the witness and keeper of Holy Writ"--"the pillar and ground of the truth," we cannot be sincere and conscientious in our attachment to her, without looking upon all deviations from her system, as aberrations from the right line, meriting reproof and condemnation. In the midst of the latitudinarianism and indifference of this levelling age, it becomes us, as Ministers and members of a church which upholds revealed religion in its integrity and supremacy, asserting its claims to paramount authority over the faith and morals of mankind;--to vindicate with candour and firmness the divine constitution and Ministry of the Christian Church, the importance and efficacy of the sacraments as channels and means of grace; the uses of a sound and Scriptural Liturgy as an aid to devotion and a perpetual witness and exhibitor of evangelical truth; the edifying nature of that annual round of Festivals and Fasts in which the events in the mystery of Godliness are commemorated in their appropriate order and season, and the cardinal doctrines of redemption and grace are most systematically and effectively inculcated upon the minds of men. Yea, we must not shrink from the use and defence of ceremonies and [13/14] symbols, innocent in their character and venerable for their antiquity, however much they may be abused by some or despised by others. Extremes of error are to be corrected, not by their opposites, but by a moderate exhibition of the truth.
Whatever may be the shades of difference among the sects and denominations by which we are surrounded, they all agree in opposing the views and usages of the Church in reference to the things just now enumerated. Those things are right, or our Church is wrong; for they are recognized and maintained in that standard of her faith and practice,--the Book of Common Prayer. To these peculiar features of our system we must charitably but firmly adhere, or relinquish our claim to the character of Churchmen.
The battles of the Church with Sectarianism have often been fought and gained; and in our days, it appears as if eventually schism would work out its own cure by the perpetual conflicts and infinitesimal divisions which are its most striking and visible fruits. But it is not yet safe, circumstanced as we are, to lay aside our armour or intermit our watchfulness in that direction. Hooker and Hall, Wheatley and Bull, Bowden and Hobart, and other writers of distinguished ability in the Mother Church and our own, have laid up in their well furnished armouries, weapons and implements of tried temper, which may still be used with effect, when occasion requires, whether our Ministry, Polity or Ritual be attacked. But we have been called, in our day, to renew the conflict for that system which is at once Catholic and Reformed, by the insolent boasting and fierce assaults of a more ancient, but a more subtle and malignant foe--in opposition to whose deadly errors [14/15] and fearful superstitions, we glory in the name of PROTESTANT.
Does old Rome, awakened from the slumber of ages, present herself "as a giant refreshed with wine"--arrogantly asserting her claim to dominion over our faith and obedience? Do we see her, with artful guile, at one time, cringing at the feet of absolute power, and then, allying herself with democracy and anarchy--only the more successfully to crush the liberties of the world;--through all revolutions and excitements, keeping a single eye to her own aggrandisement and to the forwarding of her iron despotism? Does she spread her snares and ply her arts to entrap the unwary? And do even many of the wise and virtuous tremble lest her attempts at universal empire should be crowned with success? Let our Church stand firm and unmoved, as she did in those olden times" when she acquired for herself that noble appellation--THE BULWARK OF THE REFORMATION. Prejudice and ignorance may affect to consider our communion as affiliated with Rome, and sympathising with certain of her errors. But we know, and Rome knows, that there is no insurmountable bar to her victory over Protestantism, but that which is raised by a communion having a claim truer than her own to all which is Apostolic in Institution, Primitive in Discipline, and Catholic in Faith. On this ground alone can the battle with Popery be successfully maintained. Let us not fail to meet her on this true ground, and treat her as the most ancient and deadly foe of Apostolic Episcopacy and originally revealed truth. On this ground, she has been defeated at the Reformation, and in later days by Theological giants in the Anglican communion; and while we steadfastly adhere to it, the [15/16] citadel of our faith will remain invincible and triumphant. The Truth which was from the beginning, will be an overmatch for her modern inventions and corrupt developments. Our chastened Ritual will bear perpetual protest against the mumbling formalism, the meretricious superstition, and the dead language of the Missal or Mass Book. The sublime, intelligible, rational forms of devotion embodied in our Book of Common Prayer for the joint use of Minister and People, will not suffer by contrast with the idle fripperies and sacerdotal shows which are exhibited for the admiration, rather than for the edification, of the people. Our Baptism with pure water, accompanied by the sign of the cross, will not suffer by contrast with the salt, and spittle and exorcisms with which Rome has degraded the sacrament of our engrafting into Christ. Our holy Rite "of laying on of hands," will condemn that spurious Confirmation, which consists in the application of chrism to the forehead and a slight tap upon the cheek of its unenlightened and almost infantile recipients. Our Eucharistic offering and holy communion in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, exposes the deception practised by Rome in withholding half the sacrament from the Laity, and blasphemously pretending to offer in the mass a propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead; while church views of the real participation of the faithful in the spiritual aliment of the body and blood of Jesus affords a strong protest against the idle fiction of Transsubstantiation. The pure doctrines of our Articles, Homilies and Liturgy, contain the testimony of the Church from the beginning against the corrupt dogmas of Rome; and more especially our steady maintenance of the fundamental doctrine of justification by grace [16/17] through faith in the meritorious sacrifice of the cross, presents an impregnable barrier to her system of self-righteousness and fancied works of supererogation.
I charge you, beloved brethren, adhere steadfastly to old truths and primitive Institutions, exhibited in the Bible and embodied in the Book of Common Prayer, as the best preservative under God, from the false systems of Superstition, on the one hand, and of Radicalism on the other.
4. In the early part of this charge, noticing the dangers of the Church in these times, I referred to the spirit of worldliness within our communion, and the pressure of worldly influences from without as endangering her purity, and hindering her prosperity, if not absolutely jeopardizing even her continuance, as a light and blessing to our beloved country.
In view of those dangers, what is our duty? What is to be done? To rely upon the old measures which were necessary to establish the existence of our Church in its integrity and give it a firm footing on this continent, will by no means meet the demand it now makes upon its ministers and members. To be exclusively employed in defining the position of our Church and vindicating her claims will not answer the calls she makes upon the affections and services of her children in this bustling age of active enterprise and energy. The world looks for results and fruits; and from these, chiefly, forms its judgment of any scheme which professes to reform the morals and elevate the character of mankind. As the individual Christian proves the sincerity of his profession by good works; so the Church at large, or in the aggregate, must, in the same way, vindicate its claim to be the divinely appointed illuminator [17/18] and reformer of the world. We venerate the Apostolic constitution of our Church; we love her worship, we receive, without question, her dogmatical teaching; what we now most need, is to enter thoroughly into her practical system and carry it into full effect.
I have so long trespassed upon your patience that I can barely hint at the duties suggested under this last head, and will leave them as topics for your more mature deliberation and prayers.
We must look upon our baptised children, as engrafted into the Church, called to spiritual life and privileges, that they may glorify God in their bodies and spirits which are His.
We must rely upon Christian education and nurture, rather than upon sudden illapses of the spirit and times of excitement, for their sincere conversion to God. Parents and Sponsors must be more faithful, conscientious, and prayerful in discharging the solemn responsibilities they assumed for those whom they represented at the Font. The clergy, while they fail not to preach boldly the truth as it is in Jesus, and use their zealous efforts for the conversion of Adults, must devote their energies especially, by catechising, Bible Class and Sunday School instruction, to the careful preparation of youth, for assuming their Christian obligations and entering upon the full privileges of Christian Communion. And while they are watchful that none be presented to the Bishop who are not fit subjects for Confirmation, they should take heed that none be kept back from its privileges for the lack of pastoral solicitude, instruction and care. The work of Christian Education, founded upon the reciprocal vows and promises of the Baptismal Covenant, should command a larger share of our regard. [18/19] By the establishment of Parochial and Diocesan Schools; by the founding of Orphan Asylums, Colleges and Hospitals under the guidance and patronage of the Church, and by enlarging our efforts and gifts in the cause of Missions at home and abroad,--we should demonstrate that the Church is fulfilling the high mission assigned her by her Lord, as the Teacher of the ignorant, the guide of the wanderer, the succourer of the needy, the comforter of the afflicted, the medium of grace to the sinful, and the publisher of salvation to a perishing world. We hail as a step in the right direction the resolution of the House of Bishops in 1850, to devise wise and practicable plans for bringing into more active and systematic employment, the devotion, and benevolence, and self-denial of our pious Laity of both sexes. When all orders and estates of men in our Church shall enter into the true spirit of this movement; when all shall realize that love and not controversy is their proper element, that works of charity and piety, not of contention and strife, are their fitting employment; that to alleviate the miseries and advance the salvation of a perishing world is the great end of the Christian Religion, and act accordingly; when the only strife among us will be who shall be most holy and do the most good, then God, even our own God shall give us His blessing: then Zion will arise and shine in the beauty of holiness, and become the joy and praise of the whole Earth.