RECTOR OF ST. MARK'S CHURCH, GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN
PRINTED AT THE OFFICE OF THE "ENQUIRER."
THE first Edition of this Discourse, now wholly out of print, was published many years since, and was most favorably noticed in many, and indeed, if the author recollects aright, in all of the church periodicals of that period. To the one then under the supervision of the Right Rev. Dr. Griswold, it was transferred entire. The author has been repeatedly solicited by both clergymen and laymen, to issue a second edition. This has now been done, in the ENLARGED form in which the discourse was last delivered to his present congregation. Should it prove, what many of his friends to whom he has read it have been kind enough to give as their opinion it would, the means of much good to the church, he will be thankful. He is not ignorant that it is open to criticism; but as he writes neither for fame nor money, but with a desire thus to be useful to the church, he trusts that it will be only in reference to such an end that judgment will be passed upon it. He bespeaks for it the special attention of the RESPECTIVE CLASSES of persons to whom it is particularly addressed.
The proceeds, above expenses, of the sale of this discourse, will be appropriated for the benefit of the Church.
PSALM cxxii: 7, 8, 9--Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, peace be within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek thy good.
It seems hardly necessary to observe that it is Jerusalem whose welfare David, in this Psalm, avows his determination to promote. With the reason he assigns why in behalf of this city he would thus exert himself we are more especially concerned: within her walls was contained the house of the Lord. There the Almighty Jehovah had established his worship. Thither, three times in each year, were "the tribes to go up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord." Under the divine inspiration that so fully possessed him, he had often tuned his harp to speak of the blessings that would attend the ministrations of the sanctuary on Mount Zion: hence in some of his other Psalms he thus pours out his soul:--"How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they will be still praising thee. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. All my springs are in thee. There the Lord commanded his blessing, even life evermore."
 From the fact then, that the presence of the temple did thus as it were, sanctify the whole city; that in the devout waiting upon God in its holy exercises there would be secured the presence of the divine Spirit, by whom the soul could be new born unto God, and fitted for worship in the church in Heaven, David felt it to be his duty, and esteemed it a great privilege to give freely of his substance and time in promoting, in every way in his power the prosperity, the peace of Jerusalem.
It being intended that every earthly sanctuary, like that within the walls of the holy city, should be a nursery in which we may be trained up for admission into "the general assembly and church of the first born, whose names are written in Heaven," it must be our duty also to do all we can to advance a purpose so important. It will be my endeavor in the present discourse, to show how you, my brethren of this congregation, may further the best interests of our Zion; and the church to which you profess to be attached, by your means he enabled, under the divine blessing, "to lengthen her cords and strengthen her stakes."
The idea is generally entertained that for effecting the object to which I have adverted, the exertions of the minister alone are sufficient. Much indeed depends upon him, upon his conduct as well as his labors. But it is not only to him that "the great Shepherd and Bishop" of souls looks for the enlargement of his flock, or even for its spiritual edification. To others also are granted talents, means, opportunities, that may and ought to be employed for this purpose. Indeed there is no person that attends the church, but who may much contribute to her welfare and extension.
 Are you her WARDENS or VESTRYMEN?
You are then not only what is generally understood by other denominations, Trustees, but your very name implies what the church in your appointment designed you should be,--her faithful sentinels upon guard before her camp, her ever wakeful watchmen upon her walls, her warders at her very gates. Her temporal interests are indeed entrusted almost exclusively to you, and you are expected to look after them with as much care and concern as you would your own; never suffering any of her property to be squandered, misapplied, put in jeopardy, or left to deteriorate through want of proper attention. But beyond this, your province, especially that of WARDENS, extends. To you it belongs to preserve the sanctuary from all mischief, abuse, profanation and irreverence; to see that its worship be conducted, according to Apostolic rule, "decently and in order;" according to canon and rubric; to remind those who habitually or occasionally absent themselves from its courts of their dereliction of duty; to take care that all things required for the due performance of its various rites and services be provided, and yourselves never to fail unless from absolute necessity, in your attendance upon public worship within your own parish church.
A VESTRYMAN of the church of God, indifferent to the public worship of God, devoting the Lord's day to secular business, or to worldly pleasure, acting in defiance of God's authority, breaking one of the commandments of God most solemnly given, repeated to him every Lord's day, engraven upon a tablet, (so it is in many and ought to be in all of our churches,) and in full view before him every time he enters the [7/8] sanctuary,--this, to say the least of it, is a sorry comment upon consistency--is an example any thing but beneficial to the church. You are, it is true, chosen by the congregation, principally--almost mainly--to look after and protect the temporal interests of the church. Still, that it would be promotive of good, both to yourselves and to the church, were you always present in the courts of the Lord's house, when they are opened for prayer and praise, cannot be questioned. "We wait," says David, "for thy loving kindness in the midst of thy temple."
There is sometimes an unwillingness to accept of the office of Vestryman, and indeed of any other office in the church, because of the time which it is supposed would be required in the discharge of it; but so thought not David; and he exclaims--"I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of ungodliness." That much time is frequently consumed at the meetings of religious incorporations, I am well aware; but to what is this to be attributed? Surely not always to the much there is to be done. No; but oftentimes we are too tardy in assembling; or it is with difficulty that a quorum can be collected. The consequence is, that those who are punctual at the appointed hour, wearied in waiting for their colleagues, and thus rendered incapable of meeting other engagements are, after a while, themselves discouraged, and would prefer to be relieved from an office to whose responsibilities their associates seem so indifferent. Were all to convene at the specified time there would be but slight, if any, interference with other duties; while there would be to all the pleasant reflection that they had been seeking the good of Zion, [8/9] were endeavoring to build up the church of Christ, were striving to advance the best interests of brethren and companions.
Let, then, no member of the congregation shrink from any duty appertaining to the church to which he is solicited, to give himself. Let especially the gentlemen of the vestry make it a matter of conscience to attend all its meetings; let them not fail to be at the appointed place, at the appointed hour; let them on these occasions discuss with earnestness, and in the free and independent exercise of their own best judgment, every subject that comes within their proper sphere. Let them not think the time thus spent unprofitably spent: they are indirectly if not directly acting for the best interests of many. Let them, moreover, be constant and punctual in attendance upon all the services of the church, ever remembering she is the Redeemer's own fold, and that to those duly inclosed therein, he giveth to find the bread of life, and the waters of salvation. Let them upon that bread constantly and by faith, with thanksgiving, feed in their hearts. Let them from those wells ever seek to be refreshed with the water springing up unto eternal life, and they will not only be greatly blessed themselves; they will by their example, do much good to their companions and friends, and enjoy the rich satisfaction of knowing they are promoting the prosperity of the church which the Son of God purchased with his most precious blood.
And here it would seem proper that I should address myself to those who are registered as partakers of the HOLY COMMUNION of the body and blood of Christ.
 Greatly indeed my brethren, may you benefit the church. Her character, if I may so speak, is in your hands. On you the world fastens a most scrutinizing eye. Your conduct is closely watched by the jealous sectarian, by the fault-finding unbeliever, by the impious scorner, by the evil-minded of every: description, and indeed by all who hate the truth or would rejoice to build themselves up on the ruins of your church. O how deeply concerned then, ought you to be that your practice always correspond with your profession! How scrupulously should you avoid every thing that can subject you to reproach or scandal! How careful not to do any thing that can cause your good to be evil spoken of! How willing to forego any indulgence, even though it be not sinful, whereby a brother is offended or made weak! How prompt to bear any cross which occasions that may present themselves or the peculiar positions in which you may be placed, will demand of you!
If thus you act, if you are what by your vows and covenant you are bound to be, what the requisitions of the church suppose you are, what our common Master so frequently commands you to be, what the grace of God so freely offered you, alone can make you, examples of "whatsoever things are honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report," ever letting your light distinctly but not ostentatiously shine before men,--not only most effectually will you silence gainsayers, and put to shame those who suspect the hollowness or selfishness of your pretensions:--you will, there is no doubt, win over to your brethren and companions, many who harbored, with respect to the church, the most deeply rooted prejudices, and had entirelymisapprehended her spiritual character.
 And how animating the consideration, that you have been such burning and shining lights in the church, your faith and good works been so manifest, that those who once, by reason of prejudice, misrepresentation, or ignorance, entertained an unfavorable opinion of your Zion, have, by your humble but conspicuous piety and by God's blessing, been induced to kneel with you at the same altar! You and they with one mouth professing "the faith once delivered to the saints," and glorifying, according to the same hallowed form, "Our Father in heaven!" And surely I need not add that You can seek the good and promote the prosperity of the church, by always occupying your PROPER PLACES in the temple.
For you to absent yourselves from the sanctuary because a dark cloud may appear in the sky, or because the winter's wind is somewhat piercing, or the heat of a summer's sun is more than ordinarily intense, or because you may not be pleased with the style or manner of him who ministers for you belie the Lord in holy things, or because he who officiates is only a layreader,--much more, for you to ABSENT yourselves from the holy sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, unless the extremest necessity compel you so to do, looks as though your seal was not sufficiently ardent, your love too cold, your faith too weal:, your assumption of Christian vows a mere formal, heartless profession.
You abstain from public worship, abstain from commemorating your Savour's dying love, because of weather that you would willingly brave so that you might be present at a gay assembly, or because of some slight indisposition that would not keep you from [11/12] business or from a party of pleasure; or because you have so overtasked yourselves with work, during the other six days of the week, that you imagine you need the whole or the greater part of the Lord's day for rest; or because you have taken umbrage at something that has inadvertently escaped, offensive to your pride, from a fellow communicant, or perchance from your pastor; or because you have given yourselves so wholly to the calls of pleasure that it has now become your god; O for any one thus to act is, we may not doubt, to put in imminent peril immortal interests; and that too for most vain and unsatisfactory reasons,--excuses, I ought to say, which the heart of every one that offers them cannot but most severely condemn.
Rest assured, prosperity will never be of long continuance within the walls of that temple in which those known to be COMMUNICANTS habitually or even occasionally, unless there can be pleaded such reasons as are satisfactory to God, stay away from the Lord's table. Water instead of oil will thus be poured into the lamp appointed to hold forth the light of life: the light of grace once enkindled in your souls, will thus ere long wholly have gone out, to be returned, perhaps never. Says our divine Master, "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, so neither can ye except ye abide in me. Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, there is no life in you. Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed when he cometh in the glory of his Father." Let, my brethren, the import of these solemn words he duly considered whenever you may he tempted to [12/13] disobey your Saviour's dying command, "Do this in remembrance of me."
Do any neglect this great duty, because they imagine that by so doing they will make a fellow communicant or their minister feel their resentment or their power; or that they will thus exalt themselves in the estimation of the public for superior sanctity; or have credit given them for greater jealousy for Zion's purity? All this may ensue from their conduct, and circumstances may possibly, (not probably,) justify them for the step they take. But if such a step they do take, because of some novel opinions upon religious subjects they may have embraced, or from the impulse of mere feeling, or under the influence of wounded pride, and without having first made known their grievances, and sought for proper explanation of supposed or really offensive conduct; if they have not been as ready themselves to make, as to ask for apologies from others, and to allow others to be as independent as they themselves claim to be; if such a step they take, without asking counsel of their pastier, and without first examining their own hearts as to the spirit, the motive, by which they are actuated, and without examining themselves what, under the circumstances, He who "ate with publicans and sinners" would have them do, then it cannot be questioned, their withdrawing from the Holy Supper will weaken the strong hold of the "daughter of Zion,"--w ill bring reproach upon the spouse of Christ, and "provoke God's indignation" against them.
You have perhaps not been treated with the atteetion you imagine you deserve; or you wish to indulge more freely in dissipating amusements than even the [13/14] world esteems compatible with Christian profession; or you have embraced some of the errors with which the age is rife; and you turn your backs upon that holy altar in the church spread with the mysterious symbols of redemption; bearing upon it the Saviour's own appointed means of grace for the nourishing of the soul unto eternal life; displaying the sacred pledges of the unmeasured love of a covenant-keeping God! O believe it, not one of the thorns that pierced the temples of Jesus, not one of the nails that were driven through his hands and feet, no, nor the spear that was thrust into his side, could have caused him pain so great as is the injury great that thus you will inflict upon the body of Christ, upon the Church which is his body, that one body in which inspiration declares there SHOULD BE NO SCHISM; that one body from which you thus dissever yourselves, dissevering yourselves from it rather than subdue temper, or forgive an imaginary or perchance it may be a real injury, or because you prefer to servo mammon, or the world, and not God!--or, dissevering yourselves from it because you would erect yourselves into a body independent of it; laughing to scorn the teaching of saintly confessors, "the noble army of martyrs, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the glorious company of the apostles," aye, and the word of God itself; as in its plainness, symplicity and purity it ought to he interpreted.
But again: Do your religious feelings become at any time cold, and would you for that reason keep away from the Holy Supper instituted by the Lord of Life? Remember, neglect of this or any other of the means of grace, will prove very inadequate to create fresh fervor in your souls. If the flame of your devotion is [14/15] beginning to subside, may not the cause be traced to this very neglect? Such in many cases most unquestionably is the fact. And, O how frequently do such occasional, causeless violations of the vows of duty, end in total shipwreck of faith and a good conscience! How impossible has it often seemed to renew such unto repentance, and induce them to do their "first works."
Seek then, my brethren, you especially who are COMMUNICANTS, the good of the church by ever duly observing this most sacred of her ordinances. Come to it always, whenever you can, and always come with the preparation of "a clean heart and a right spirit." Approach the hallowed altar with the reverential, the solemn feelings of those who "discern the Lord's body;" who see by faith, under those consecrated emblems, the LAMB OF GOD a sacrifice for "sinners slain." Kneel before the holy table with the simple, full confidence of children assembled at the invitation of divine love around their Father's board. In the excursions from home, which it may be necessary for you to make, always plan your journeys so that you may, if possible, be in your own parish on Communion day. You are part of a circle formed within the parish, pledged to SHOW FORTH to your households, friends and neighbors, the LORD'S DEATH. You are part of the Sacramental Host of God, existing wherever Christianity is known; and your proper place when that plighted band is engaged in commemorating the act of Christ, by which he became "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," is where your influence, your example, will have most weight; and that is at home, in your own parish, before the same altar where your vows were [15/16] first paid, and have been often renewed. Let not "the ways of Zion mourn" because "you come not to her solemn feasts." Let not companions and brethren, with whom you once shared the one divinely-given soul-strengthening loaf, and the same life-preserving cup see you keeping aloof from the "sacred feast that Jesus makes, rich banquet of his love's repast." Let not the scorner have you for his subject, when he would sneak in derision of holy mysteries. Let not the unbeliever have your practice for his argument, when he would attack the glorious gospel of the Son of God, or vilify "the church which is His body," bought with His most precious blood.
And now I would address myself for a moment to those who are NOT COMMUNICANTS:--It is, my brethren, a cause of rejoicing that you are seen even assembled within "the gates of the daughter of Zion;" it is hailed as a token for good when your voices are heard in the prayers and anthems of praise that go up to God with In our holy courts. The services in which you here engage, the instructions that are imparted, the copious and interesting portions of the divine Word that are read, every time our public worship is properly conducted, cannot but arrest your attention, occasion, occasionally at least, and cause you to think of, and desire a place in. seine of the mansions of our Heavenly Fathers house. Nor do I think I should err were I to assert that the effect of these exercises was felt by some of you during the week, and tended not a little to restrain you from yielding to the temptations to sin, by which we are all so constantly and powerfully beset.
But were you of the number who had joined themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant to serve [16/17] him; did you go forth into the world mindful that the vows of God were upon you; were it the fact that you had indeed fed upon the broken bread representing the body of the Lord bruised for the sins of the world; did you remember your lips had touched, had feasted upon the sacramental cup, and that the wine you tasted showed forth the Saviour's own blood poured forth as an atonement for man's guilt; O would you, could you, if you realized the nature of those holy mysteries, and how your participation of them pledged you, bound you like your divine Lord ever to be waging war with sin;--say, would you, could you under such circumstances easily, or at all "yield yourselves servants of sin," and go on increasing your own load, and helping to increase the load of guilt that was already bearing down to perdition the souls of others? No! THE LOVE OF CHRIST, his love for sinners even unto death, thus brought so vividly to mind by the memorials on the altar of the church, would "constrain you to live henceforth, not unto yourselves, but unto him who died for you," would constrain you to do, as did Christ, all the good you could to your neighbor, to your fellow sinners going down all around you to eternal death; and Zion would rejoice for the sheaves your efforts and example would be instrumental in bringing into her garners; and the church would feel your influence, like the arms of a giant, lengthening her cords and strengthening her stakes. For, whose influence is so mighty for good as that of the zealous, consistent Christian, however humble his walk in life? What can make talents, genius, courage, wisdom or wealth so effective as a life regulated by the precepts of the Gospel, sanctified by the indwelling of the Spirit [17/18] of God, given to the benevolent the holy deeds to which grace will prompt, and for which grace will prepare it?
O, be then, all of you, my beloved brethren, partakers of the Sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, that means of grace which Christ will not fail to make most powerfully efficacious to its intended purpose to all who receive it aright, and who seek to have it thus blessed to their soul's good. For your own sake, for the sake of brethren and companions, turn not your backs upon the Lord's table; seek not to be excused from the supper to which, for your good, Jesus invites you.
Excuse not yourselves by pointing to the INCONSISTENT, the HYPOCRITICAL, saying they are no better for their professions. They might be much worse than they are, were it not for the relation they sustain to the church. But be that as it may, remember their weaknesses, love of pleasure, backslidings, or even notorious sins, can never be an excuse for your neglect of duty. If they injure Zion by their reprehensible conduct, as most certainly they do, so much the louder are you called upon to set an example which shall redeem Zion from the reproach they bring upon her. If you realize how communicants ought to walk and live, and yet will not be numbered with the Sacramental host, is it good or evil that you are doing to the cause of Christ? If others do it harm by their evil life, O throw yourselves among its friends and raise the tone of piety, and be yourselves what you think others ought to be; and Zion will shout for joy, the Church be indeed a blessing to yourselves and your companions and friends; and the "tabernacle of God shall be with us and he will dwell with us."
BUT I address myself a second time to the Communicants of the Church, and remark that they ought not only to be consistent, exemplary, zealous, "ever adorning the doctrine of God their Saviour in all things:" They ought to be ACQUAINTED WITH EACH OTHER. To the communion table the conventional rules by which society in its various phases is regulated, do not extend. Here, every thing like caste should be lost sight of. "There is neither Greek nor Jew, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, male nor female, but ye are all one in Christ Jesus." As one, as members of the one body of which Christ is head; as one, one of a circle formed upon Christ its center; as one, one of a chain, reaching link by link, from earth to heaven, and held in the hand of Christ, each communicant in the same parish ought thus to know and delight to own each other; each looking upon the other as being as dear to Christ as souls washed in his atoning blood can make them; each so well acquainted with the others, that there should be no reluctance, no unwillingness on the part of any to converse with each other on Redemption's glorious theme, and Zion's holy work.
I do not say that, in becoming communicants, you are to lose sight of the DISTICTIONS IN SOCIETY. To the end of the world there will ever be, as there ever have been in it, the divisions of high and low, rich and poor, master and servant. And yet, the most obscure, [19/20] the veriest pauper, the most down-trodden slave has an equal part in Christ with the most distinguished, the wealthiest, the most lordly of the sons of men; may be a star as much transcending the latter in brightness, in the firmament of God's everlasting kingdom, as the latter is now exalted above him on God's footstool, given to each on which to spend their brief day together.
But while each of these is striving to be translated "into the glorious liberty of the sons of God," and knows it is only as he becomes one with Christ that he can hope to enjoy such a privilege, such bliss, let each, if they be communicants, know each other on earth as "fellow heirs together of that grace of life," by which they can have of that blessed hope, the full fruition. Let each be content in that station of life which God's Providence permits to be his; let him consort with those in the same station. Let him not envy those above him, or thrust himself unbidden into the higher places occupied by others. Let not the latter look down with scorn; let these not turn contemptuously away from; let them not disdain to recognize; let them not refuse to become ACQUAINTED with; let them visit those who stand not upon the same round of the world's ladder with themselves. The former look up to the latter for the counsel, the advice, the assistance these, from their superior advantages, might be expected to be well able to give.
And would these make it a part of their duty to observe towards those who may not be so high in the rank of human society as themselves, a condescending, an affable, a kind, a sympathizing deportment, would they search them out, and when they met, speak to [20/21] them of CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH; would they ever and especially on communion-day greet them with the smile of recognition, and let them see they rejoiced to be thus associated with them and to own them as brethren in Christ,--"Christ of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named," who can tell how much would thus be done to build up and strengthen Zion!--To bring back into the fold of the church Christ's sheep that have wandered, that have been enticed from it! The brother of high degree would rejoice in that he could make himself thus low, and the brother of low degree in that he was thus exalted, and both would rejoice that they could bend together at the foot of the cross, recognized as "one in Christ," members of the one body which he has promised to "present to himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing"--the church which they loved on earth, and whose good they each in his proper station, sought to promote.
But I would now ask the attention, thirdly, of those to whom has been given the enviable talent to SING GOD'S PRAISE.
Praise is the most animating part of the exercises of the Sanctuary. The songs of Zion set to proper music, will often arrest and keep up the attention of the most thoughtless, extort admiration from the most phlegmatic, calm and soothe the heart surcharged with sorrow, and tranquilize the most troubled conscience. But not only is this exercise too frequently left to be performed by those who compose the CHOIR;--sometimes it is difficult even for the choir to be kept sufficiently full to produce the proper effect; sometimes offence will be taken where none was intended to be [21/22] given; and for the most trivial causes, some of the members will abandon their wonted places, and the whole congregation be disappointed because there is no one to lead in this important and delightful part of the public worship of Almighty God; and all this, perhaps occasioned simply because some one, two or three have not had their musical talents as highly appreciated by others as they themselves estimate them; or because they were unwilling to have assigned to them any other position in the choir than the one they particularly desired; or because they had some personal feelings of dislike, of animosity, or of envy towards other members of it. Alas, that there is, so often, such variance in disposition, and counter-action among those who are so sensitive to every thing like discord in musical sounds! Alas, that those who so much enjoy the melody of the voice, cannot always have the richer satisfaction of knowing they act with melody in their hearts towards each other, and notwithstanding all their private piques and differences, can nevertheless agree to "sing together with melody in their hearts unto the Lord."
It ought to be borne in mind, that praise has become, by the command of God, as much our duty as prayer. It is also an employment in which angels and archangels delight to engage.' It might then be supposed that no pious mind would require to be urged to assist in the proper, the most effective performance of it. And what reason can be advanced why those who are acquainted with the art should not lend their voices, as best they may, to swell their Maker's praise, either from the place occupied by the choir, when this is requested of them, or else from their own seats [22/23] within the holy temple? You do not expect that the efforts of others in this particular God will pass to your credit, or regard their acts as yours, any more than you do the prayers of others.
It is one of the excellencies of our Church that its whole worship is designed to be CONGREGATIONAL Or SOCIAL, and is so arranged that all may, as all ought to take part in it. Hence its prayers and hymns are by a precomposed, a prescribed FORM. Hence in all these acts "young men and maidens, old men and children," can, as they are exhorted by the Psalmist, bear a part; can, according to the apostolic injunction, "with one mind and one mouth" glorify God. And hence they can do this also, agreeably to the apostolic rule, "with the spirit and the understanding." for it would be absurd to suppose that when the Apostle exhorts us to sing with the spirit and the understanding, he intended a book, a FORM Or PRAISE should be used, and that when he exhorts us in the very same verse to pray with the spirit and the understanding, he meant to condemn the use of a book, a form of prayer.
Let not, then, any one refuse to lift up his "heart and voice" in our public assemblages, to "the High and Holy One that inhabiteth eternity." Let, indeed, the CHOIR be always well sustained and well supported: but let also the WHOLE CONGREGATION be heard, as with one voice, uttering Psalms and Hymns to that Great and Glorious Being who, though throned in highest Heaven, yet graciously condescends to accept our imperfect attempts to exalt and magnify him. Let those who can sing, not refuse so to do. Let those who cannot do so with their voices, do so mentally at least, "with the spirit," Let them do so especially by [23/24] uniting in reading the portion of the psalms and anthems appointed for that purpose.
Were this course adopted, how many might be, all the while, much improving themselves in sacred music, as well as imparting pleasure to others, and glorifying God! How much more of gladness would many experience when they went up to the house of the Lord! How much might they thus be doing to promote the prosperity of Zion! The office of the minister is to conduct or lead in the devotional part of the service called prayer; the office of the choir is to conduct or lead in the devotional part of the service called singing or metrical praise: neither is to monopolize the branch of duty proper to each. The people are to follow their leader, always in their hearts, and always in the parts assigned to them, whether of prayer or praise, with their voice. It is thus that the proper idea of a social worship will be presented and kept up, all things be done, as an apostle directs, "decently and in order;" and both the praying and the singing be "with the spirit and the understanding."
But I ought not to dismiss this part of the subject without a remark applicable more particularly to the members of the CHOIR themselves. The choir ought never to be composed of those who do not consider themselves as a part of the congregation. They ought always to be present, if possible, during the performance of public worship, and to remain till the congregation be dismissed. It looks not well, it is disrespectful to the congregation and clergyman, it is irreverent for them to leave the church so soon as their services are not specially needed.
Again:--The leader of a choir is generally if not [24/25] always furnished with the Psalms and Hymns before the commencement of divine service. Why is this? It is that he may immediately select his tunes, and have every thing in readiness at the very opening of the service: that there be no consultation, no whispering, no rustling of leaves or of notes of music, afterwards: and that the members of the choir, realizing they are a part of the congregation, may participate with all decorum, and proper solemnity, and devotional feeling, in the various parts of the service.
The place occupied by a choir of singers, is sometimes the scene of any thing but what becomes the house of God. I am happy to think such animadversion applies not to the Choir of this Church. I trust it never will be justly subjected to it. I trust its members, be they who they may, will ever remember they occupy that position in the church, not to attract attention to themselves and be praised for their excellent music, but themselves to praise GOD and to assist others in such a delightful employment. They, as well as the minister, while engaged in their duties, ought, as much as possible if not entirely, to forget themselves, and to be intent upon the purpose for which they have been brought together, and the holy services in which they are engaged; all endeavoring so to praise, to pray, to read, to preach, as those who realize it is not unto men that such acts are performed, but unto GOD.
Let, then, the members of the choir be actuated by such a spirit; let their aim be not self-glorification, but the glory of God; let their music be such as the congregation can unite in; let it be CHURCH and not opera music--devotional, not theatrical; let its object be to [25/26] lift the souls both of performers and listeners heavenward; and then indeed will a choir be the means of much and of permanent prosperity to the church. And happy will they thus he in the thought that they are doing what they can, to have themselves and all the congregation prepared for taking part in the choral anthem of the Redeemed in the Church triumphant.
But I would now say a few words to show how PARENTS may be instrumental of good to the Church.
And how effectually might you, brethren, do this, were you to present your children at the Baptismal font in the church, and bring them up in proper mind fulness of BAPTISMAL OBLIGATIONS! Most painful is it to reflect how much this divine ordinance is neglected. Would Christ have sanctioned, by His example, any thing that was unnecessary, or that had no beneficial tendency? And yet He blessed such little children as He could take up in His arms, all unconscious though they were of what He did unto them. When Christ said, "Go ye make disciples of all nations, baptising them"--"Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven," can we suppose lie designed to exclude our little ones from the covenant of redemption? or from admission into the church, the visible body with which that covenant was made?
Such was not the opinion in the days of primitive Christianity. Such was not the opinion of a [26/27] Chrysostom, a Cyprian, an Ignatius, a Polycarp, nor of any of the early fathers of the Church. Was not the Church during the Jewish dispensation, as truly the Church of God, as it is now His Church in "these last days of the Son of man?" Into the church as then existing, God commanded the children to he grafted. Has the command, as it regards the subjects of church-membership, ever been abrogated? Does Christ, who was as much the Head of the Church before His advent in human flesh as He is since He became man, any where inform us that the parent and child who had always hitherto been embraced in the same covenant, were henceforth to be separated, and the latter to be debarred from all its privileges?
There is, my brethren, but ONE CHURCH spoken of in the Bible, whether you look into the Old or the New Testament. In both, the Church of which you read, is the Church of God, "built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." Now we read, what? That persons, children, of such an age as were received into it before Christ came in the flesh, were to be excluded from it after He came in the flesh? In vain will you seek for any hint of the kind. We read that the "blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ." The covenant to bless "all nations" in Abraham, was made four hundred years before the giving of the Mosaic law; and the Apostle thus proceeds:--"The covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law that was four hundred years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect." Now, be it noted, that that covenant was made with the "wives and little ones," [27/28] as well as with men; was made before the giving of the law; was never to be disannulled; and that IT did most certainly embrace children as parties. THAT COVENANT, again I say he it noted, was never "to be done away." How indeed would a Jew now be affected if, on application to be "grafted in again in to his own olive tree," (whether that be the church or Christ,) he should be told that his children could not be grafted in with him--could not be grafted in again into that tree of which they once were "the natural branches;" that they must not be re-admitted into the church to which, before the coming of Christ, children always belonged'? Such a statement would be enough to make him repudiate the whole Christian scheme.
Strange indeed would it be, if as all admit, our little ones may be members of the church in Heaven, they are to be nevertheless shut out from the church on earth. This is the school designed to teach them, as they grow in age, to "grow also in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Here, in baptism, the parents, the sponsors, the minister, the whole congregation pray that the influences of the Holy Spirit may be granted unto the children, that they may thus be sanctified even in their earliest years. "The promise," says St. Paul, "is unto you and your children." And what promise was this, but of the Spirit, through faith? And when may we expect that promise to be verified and the Holy Spirit to be given by which the child "may be born again and made an heir of salvation," if not in answer to prayer, prayer offered up under such circumstances?
Let it not be said of you, my brethren, that you hold in higher estimation the novel opinions as to religious [28/29] truth, of which the world is now full, than you do "the old ways," to ask for which and in which to walk we are commanded,--the old ways appointed by the Saviour, trod by Apostles, wet with the blood of martyrs. Seek the good of the church by presenting not only yourselves, but, like Stephanus, of whom St. Paul speaks, your households for the reception of holy baptism's sacramental waters. Be, as was the jailor of Phillippi, baptized you, and all yours: and thus show to the world you regard the church not as an institution of man, but as the divinely constituted body of our Lord, from which to keep separated is to be without any covenant-interest in Christ's atoning blood. Your example will be blessed to companions and friends: and thus may you hope many of them who once were, like you, "as sheep going astray, will return to the Shepherd and Bishop of souls," and eventually, with the little lambs that God may have given you and them, be all gathered together in the heavenly fold; there to "Feed in pastures ever vernal," and "Drink the rivers of His grace."
But parents may also promote the prosperity of the church, by instructing their children in the nature of its services, and teaching them to unite in the RESPONSES by which our mode of worship is so much enlivened.
Say not that this will he only to accustom them to a mere habit, and that it will do them no good. So reasoned not the Psalmist: he calls upon "young men and maidens, old men and children to praise the Lord." We trust their little voices will be heard in Heaven, singing the "Song of Moses and the Lamb." Why then should they not be permitted on earth, to invoke [29/30] the grace of God, and thank Him for His goodness, and praise, for His mercy, Him who hath "loved us and given Himself for us?" What parent can object, what parent does not delight to hear at home, his child say, "Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name," and all that follows of that divinely prescribed form? Why then should not the same child be permitted, be taught in the church also thus to pray? Or, why should such a habit be objected to any more than the habit of attending church, or of reading God's word?
But I hasten to address myself, lastly, to the CONGREGATION in its collective capacity:--And I observe each individual that belongs to it, may in various ways promote the prosperity of the Church. This can be done by you, by invariably frequenting the courts of the Lord's house; by being present not merely a part of the Lord's day, but both at the morning and evening sacrifice; by being present, not only on the hallowed day of rest, but on all other occasions when its doors are open for public worship; by being present not only when your own pastor is to officiate, but when his place is supplied by any other clergyman, or even by a lay-reader.
It is, that we may WORSHIP God, and not merely receive instruction from the pulpit, that we are invited to come up to the holy temple. It is in a great degree by means of public worship, that a knowledge of God is kept up in the world, and men are reminded of His Almighty power, of their absolute dependence upon Him, of their inevitable accountability to Him. Whoever then is unwilling to encourage, by his example and influence, public worship, can hardly be said to be [30/31] a friend either of good order or his country. And he who professes to be anxious for the well-being of society, but deserts the sanctuary because his own minister does not conduct it, or for any other reason that God will not accept, need not be surprised to behold the prosperity that once was witnessed within its walls, diminishing in proportion as his example is imitated; and imitated it most surely will be by many.
Questionable indeed is his attachment to the church who finds not in its service, in the richness, the variety, the spirituality of its devotional parts, and the many interesting portions of Scripture always read, enough to secure, independently of all other attractions, his attendance within its sacred courts. Let not, then, a love of ease, let not the calls of business, let not the indisposition that would not keep you from an evening entertainment or an excursion of pleasure, tempt you to rob God of a portion of His chosen, solemnly set apart holy time! Think not that the less than two hours spent within the sanctuary one part of this sacred day, will be accepted by God as a satisfactory compliance with His own command, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." Be not deceived with the idea that, because your feet have trod its courts once during the day, you are at liberty to spend the remainder of it in slothful or carnal indulgence, in secular avocations, in visits or jaunts of pleasure. Task not yourselves so much with business during the other days of the week, that you must take God's portion of it for recruiting your strength, and therefore will be unable, in consequence of fatigue, to hallow His Sabbath. Choose not this day of the week on which to be sick, because you will thus lose no time from [31/32] your temporal pursuits. Plan not your journeys so that the Lord's day will be sure to find you on the road, because that day will not be one taken from your business.
O, it is most ungrateful to refuse to spare for such purposes, one day of the whole six that God has given us in which to do the work we have to do, and to devote the whole or the greater part of His own one day that he has consecrated as holy time, not to the uses for which He has reserved it, not in efforts to advance his glory, not in worshipping, bowing down and kneeling before Him in His "house of prayer," but in doing only our own pleasure, or prosecuting our own business. Let not the shame of such ingratitude, let not the sin of such conduct be chargeable upon any of you, my beloved brethren. Let not caprice, or mere feeling, or an absorbing selfishness, or a mercenary spirit, at any time influence you more than good sense, and sound principle and regard for the authority of Almighty God. Be consistent with your views of duty; consistency is not bigotry. Be firm in your adherence to what your judgment approves; firmness is not obstinacy. Firmness in maintaining, consistency in exemplifying what, after due examination, is right, will never fail to secure friends to the course we ourselves may pursue. Such conduct will most assuredly, when known to be put in practice for the cause of God, add tenfold to our influence. And thus our strict adherence to duty in the matter of public worship will serve to secure from others, a better observance of the Lord's day, a more general attendance within the house of God, a more extensive furthering of the good of the church.
 But again:--Each member of the congregation may promote the prosperity of the church, by coming to his minister for COUNSEL, when perplexed by doubts as to your spiritual state, or when bewildered by the conflicting interpretations you may hear put upon the word of God.
Often has it happened that a doctrine has arrested the attention of some persons, and which they have been tempted to believe was in accordance with the word of God, and which they may even have embraced, while their pastor, their instructor perhaps for years, has not had the cheap compliment paid him of being asked his opinion respecting it; and perhaps ere he had the least idea the mind could be so easily perverted as to subscribe to what struck him to be so plainly in opposition to Scriptural teaching. But those thus deceived, having once expressed belief in its truth, pride of opinion helps to rivet it upon them; and they fall away into a state of heresy or schism; when, it is at least possible, an hour's conversation with the pastor would have prevented it, and they been saved from being accessory to the divisions for which Zion is reproached by her enemies.
It is an easy matter for any one to persuade himself he is following truth, when however he is influenced by prejudice, love of novelty, love of the marvelous, or by unwillingness to hear truth that condemns himself. Besides, the imagination not unfrequently mistakes fancy for reality and error for truth; and loves to indulge in speculations which cast scorn upon ancient landmarks and time honored, yea apostolic creeds. And then again, where there is a disposition to entertain error, God sometimes, as we are warned by St. Paul, [33/34] gives up those inclined to it, "to believe a lie," and to become victims of the delusions they loved, or did not care to have exposed.
"The time will come," says St. Paul to Timothy, "when men will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts will heap to themselves teachers." Previously to this he wrote to him thus;--"The spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, or departed spirits."
There being, then, so many causes that minister to the production of error; so easily oftentimes, is the mind warped from truth; so gratifying is it to the unsteady, the restless, the ambitious, to have something new to advocate, that it behoves every one to be slow to give heed to any thing that professes to be a novelty in religion. In all cases of difficulty as to matters of faith or doctrines, consult your pastor. Do him the credit to suppose he may know as much as yourselves upon subjects to which he may have given a great deal and you perchance but little of time or study. If he can do no more for you, he can at least, bend with you before the FATHER OF LIGHTS, and seek from Him the illumination both you and he may much need. Thus he may be the means of preventing you from being led away by error, from wounding the cause of Zion; from grieving companions and friends; may be the means of your being saved to be burning and shining lights in the church of God upon earth, bright and ever shining and glorious stars in the firmament of Heaven.
But once more:--Each member of the congregation may promote the prosperity of the church, by [34/35] zealously CO-OPERATING with the minister in his plans for instruction, parochial improvement, and spiritual edification. Much, my brethren, have the PASTORS of a flock to endure, peculiar to themselves, and the position they occupy. Their well-meant, their best and kindest intentions, will not always be duly appreciated; may be misconceived, and misrepresented. Persons may imagine themselves to be singled out from the great mass of hearers, and particularly preached at, and held up to public animadversion, when the minister was but drawing his bow at a venture. The rebuke may have been designed only for those, in a general sense, to whom it was applicable; but which one of them, more than others, may have merited it, the pastor might be ignorant. Many however, instead of allowing that themselves are proper subjects for it, and heeding the timely counsel, take offence at Christ's servants for doing THEIR DUTY to the souls for which they must give account; and perhaps turn away in a rage from their ministry, simply because they cannot bear to be reproved. They may have labored with all the ability God had given them, and far into the hours when their hearers were being refreshed with sleep, to produce something that according to the best of their judgment was called for by the condition of the parish; and those who, it was conceived, needed the instruction, or advice are, without sufficient cause, not in their places when the services of the sanctuary are to be performed.
Sometimes, too, they will find opposition to their views maintained, it would almost seem, merely for the sake of opposition, and that it may be seen how there can be the absence both of courtesy and [35/36] kindness, when favorite schemes are to be advanced by it, or when favorite schemes are not advocated to the satisfaction of their friends, by their spiritual guides. These must be willing each one of their hearers should say of them what, and act as independently of them, as they please; while it would seem as though the minister is expected to sacrifice his own independence, and forbear even the expression of an opinion, however correct, or the statement of a fact, however true, if it be adverse or unpleasant to self-love, or parental, or personal pride.
Ministers must, and fully do we admit we ought to feel for every one: but not unfrequently will there be for their feelings disregard the most marked; and attempts most perseveringly made, direct or indirect, to the prejudice of their reputation and usefulness. I accuse not, I have no reason to accuse you, my beloved brethren of this parish, of any such conduct towards me: I am speaking on general principles, and of what has often happened in many places, and of what, if we seek not to avoid every thing that can militate against the good of the church, may happen even here,--here where there has been so much indulgence shown to him who is at present over you in the Lord, and such long forbearance with his defective ministrations;--ministrations which he is conscious have been so unworthy of the exalted and holy purposes for which they are ordained.
But in the whole range of the minister's labors; of all the care that comes upon him; of the privations to which he must submit; of the many mortifications he must experience; of the almost innumerable trials of feeling to which he must be subjected, believe it my [36/37] brethren, nothing affects him more sensibly, nothing tends more to damp his zeal, to paralize his exertions, to tempt him to intermit study, than a want of union of effort, and an unwillingness to become fellow-workers with him, on the part of those to whom he is striving to make known the unsearchable riches of Christ.
If a pastor has had any experience in the ministry, if he be blessed with any thing like an ordinary share of common sense, of common discernment; if he have even but a tolerable knowledge of human nature, it ought to be presumed that he is somewhat well qualified to judge what measures ought to be adopted for the welfare of the parish. But when such measures are proposed, and are such as cannot but be approved by honest, reflecting, disinterested and generous minds, and yet are not adopted, because of some demand they may make upon our time and means; or because they are not carried out in perfect accordance with the views, the suggestions of others;--when a minority will do nothing that the majority may recommend, when one, two or three will withhold all pecuniary aid unless others will give an amount dictated by the former,--what can be expected but that many a favorable opportunity to benefit Zion will be lost and her prosperity impeded.
In all such cases, our rule ought to be,--not to be influenced by others, not to seek to direct others, not to withhold the aid we can render because others will not do any thing, or will not do as much as we think they ought, but to act without the least reference to them, and for ourselves to offer freely in proportion to our ability; and to do all we can to secure the proposed object altogether irrespective of their action. "Peter [37/38] saith to Jesus, Lord what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, what is that to thee. Follow thou me." All ought indeed to unite in every effort for the good of the church. The measure suggested is to gratify or benefit the whole. Let not then the labor, the expense, the time that will be required for its accomplishment be expected only of a few. The few, if too often called upon, will themselves eventually be discouraged; and the church suffer because there are none to do, what perhaps, is vitally connected with her prosperity. "Bear ye," says an apostle, "one anther's burthens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." Many of you, my brethren, have, I well know, endeavored to act upon this rule and will continue to do so. Let what already has been the result of your harmonious counsels, and mutual co-operation and united efforts, (this spacious and goodly edifice, so well arranged, so well furnished, so well filled,) be bailed as an earnest of what may be expected henceforth to follow from perseverance in thus acting in concert and harmony among ourselves, for the interest of our Zion.
Let not the SUNDAY SCHOOL, when there is one, languish because teachers cannot be had for it, or because parents will not exert their influence, their authority, upon their children, either in requiring them to attend the school or in studying at home the appointed lessons, or because there are none to search out and bring in the poor and neglected. Let not the BIBLE CLASS, when there is one, show by the paucity of its numbers, that instruction from the lively oracles of God is despised. Let not the WEEK DAY or any other service, that may have been instituted, he attended by so few, and they scattered so widely apart in the sacred edifice, [38/39] that heart cannot catch the glow of feeling which may pervade any fellow-heart; the animation that numbers will always excite, be wanting; and the chilliness of winter reign even in a midsummer's day, within the empty walls. Be it that the work of Sunday School teaching is onerous; that the week day exposition is dull; that the catechetical exercise has nothing of the charm of oratory to recommend it; that pulpit declamation is more attractive than familiar lectures;--united effort will nevertheless render every burden light; truth in however a homely, unstudied, ungraceful form it be conveyed, will make its way to and remain for good in the mind; and the very presence of some upon such courses of instruction, may encourage and make constant the attendance of many others, to whose hearts the truth thus plainly spoken, may go "in the demonstration of the spirit," and prove itself to be God's "engrafted word," saving the soul.
As closely connected with this branch of our subject, I would here advert to a matter which deeply concerns all, but especially the pew-holders and the minister. I mean PROMPTNESS AND PUNCTUALITY IN ALL OUR PECUNIARY engagements for any and every church-purpose. Undertake to do no more than you have ability to execute; but for the amount for which you thus commit yourselves, whether for the minister, the house of the Lord, or any of the offices thereof, make sure and timely provision. If you must make retrenchments as to your expenses, begin not with religious institutions; take not from them the whole or even the greater part of what you have hitherto contributed, while there is no curtailment in what you lavish upon your establishments, or your persons; and your manner of living [39/40] is as costly as ever. Say not that you are unable to PAY as much as hitherto to the church, when you clothe yourselves as richly, adorn yourselves with as much jewelry, fare as sumptuously, indulge your children as freely as ever; and give as extravagant entertainments as though the sun of your prosperity shone through no intervening cloud. This is not to "lay up treasures in Heaven;" is not to be "rich toward God;" will not contribute to bring down a blessing either upon the church or yourselves.
You expect the minister to be ready at all times, in all weathers, to discharge his duties, and to bestow upon the parish the full amount of labor, in all the diversified forms incidental to his office, rightly demanded of him under the circumstances in which he is placed. Let a similar course be pursued by you towards him. Let not his spirit be harrassed; let not his mind be made over anxious, because his people withhold from him, at the specified time when he ought to receive it, the MAINTENANCE pledged to him. If this be done, you will most seriously affect his usefulness; compel him to become more secularized than he would, and to resort to means for the support of his family from which he shrinks. And worse than this: you will force him to disappoint others to whom, on the faith he had in you, he bound himself to meet at a given time, his engagements with them for perhaps the absolute necessaries of life. To be plain, my brethren, let not your pastor, through any fault of yours, be involved in DEBT. Whenever it shall thus happen, be assured darkness will soon gather upon your brightest prospects, and trouble, vexation, misery and ruin, in rapid succession will ensue. If it be true, as with [40/41] very few exceptions it is, that a clergyman in DEBT is a clergyman undone, equally true is it, that a parish involved in pecuniary difficulties will be most fatally impeded in its advancement of the spiritual interests it is designed especially to promote. But few of those not already members of it will care to connect themselves with it, if they suppose they will be obliged to bear such a burden; and those belonging to it will be too much harrassed in devising how to free it from its incumbrances, to profit by the spiritual instruction of the desk and pulpit.
There are two seasons of the year, at or before which all the temporal concerns of a congregation ought to be adjusted: one, the commencement of our civil year, or NEW YEAR'S DAY; the other, the beginning of our parochial year, or EASTER WEEK. If however there be any stipulation for more frequent, for quarterly settlements, (and this is highly desirable,) let it not be lost sight of; let not the time of payment pass by unnoticed. This is a subject on which I would not have bestowed a single remark, did I not know, if not from experience, yet most certainly from observation, how closely connected, with the best interest of the church, is the adoption of the course that has now been recommended. You, brethren of this parish, have in this respect been much favored. It is to the prudence, firmness, economy, and dread of being in debt, evinced by the successive wardens and vestrymen annually elected by you, that you may attribute in no small degree, your present flourishing condition.
But I observe, lastly, each one of the congregation can promote the prosperity of the church, by uniting heartily in the various services, and by making in an [41/42] AUDIBLE VOICE, the Responses. How can it be known our mode of worship is, what it is intended to be, SOCIAL in its character, and that by means of it not only the minister, but the people are enabled to pray, if; while it is being offered to God, the minister's voice alone is heard 2 Its life, beauty, order, solemnity do not, cannot appear, if during the performance of its different parts, your voices are not heard, or heard not above a whisper. Even the AMEN, wherever it occurs, ought to he distinctly expressed.
So it was in the primitive Church: Jerome informs us that in his day the Amen was pealed forth by the people, "like a clap of thunder." So was it in the times of the Apostles: For "how," enquires St. Paul, "shall the unlearned know when to say Amen, if prayer he made in an unknown tongue?" So was it even in the time of Moses:--"And God said, let all the people say Amen."
By the addition of this word to the prayers, you show that you make them your own;--have accompanied, mentally and with your spirit, the minister in the use of each of them, and signifying at the close, that you do, as a congregation, unite with him in the offering of these very prayers unto God. Very different would be the effect produced by our service were the rule of the church even in this particular heeded. But this is but a small part of the responsive portion of the Liturgy.
The whole is arranged with so much beautiful order and manifest propriety; its language is so simple, and yet so truly sublime and devotional; it breathes such a pure evangelical spirit; it contrasts, with such manifest advantage to itself, so strongly with many of the [42/43] extempore effusions that are sometimes dignified with the name of prayer, that it requires only to be examined without prejudice, and to be properly performed, to be admired.
Entering the holy house of God in which the entire multitude were heard at one time, with an humble voice, as therein instructed, confessing t', it sins, and that they had done what they ought not to have done, and left undone what they ought to have done,--and then imploring pardon, meekly crying out, Spare Thou those, O God, who confess their faults, Restore Thou those who are penitent,--and then in the voice of filial confidence, uniting in saying our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,--and then with a more loud and animated tone, pouring forth the anthems of praise; all thus engaged now in prayer and now in praise, and now in listening to the Lessons selected from the Bible, and now in rehearsing the Articles of our Belief; and then again in prayer, and now once more in praise, all speaking the same words, all "joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment,"--surely no one could see and hear this with a candid, Christian spirit, without soon coming to the conclusion, that, however strange the service might at first seem to him, if social worship was kept up, or the unity of the spirit preserved any where on earth, it was in a church whose exercises were thus arranged, and thus performed. The effect, were he free from the prejudices created by education, ignorance, envy or custom, would not be lost upon him. His voice would soon be heard mingling with your own, in the use of the same prayers and anthems; prayers and [43/44] anthems be it remembered, those of our church are, that have warmed the hearts, and trembled on the tongues of a long line of confessors and martyrs and apostles of the olden time, and of a host of the purest spirits of subsequent ages, that ever loved and adorned the church.
And here, did time permit, it might be interesting to show how, all over our land, such has been the result of a right consideration of the character and object of the Liturgy of the Episcopal Church. We might say to you, go into any of our congregations you choose, and you would find many, and in many places a majority of the worshippers consisting of those once bitterly opposed to the Church, and ridiculing our hallowed forms as an unmeaning mummery of words, or as a remnant of popish invention, but who are now deriving from them the comfort, the satisfaction, the instruction, they had vainly sought elsewhere.
We might bid you go among our Clergy, and behold among our duly ordained pastors, from our most distinguished Bishops down to the humblest missionary treading our distant wilds in search of Christ's sheep that are lost, many who were once ministers or candidates for the ministry in other denominations, and taught to look upon the Church as knowing nothing "of the power of Godliness," and accustomed to decry her as the daughter of the woman of Babylon, now among the most fearless, valiant, and successful champions of the evangelical truths she teaches; of the apostolic order she maintains; of the uninterrupted succession from Christ himself, of the three fold ministry that has come down to her from Apostolic hands.
 She has seen literally fulfilled, in part, the prophetic declaration, "All they that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee, and they that despised thee shall bow themselves at the soles of thy feet, and calf thee the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel."
Bear then your part, each of you, in the right spirit, beloved brethren, in the performance of our solemn, edifying, animating, SCRIPTURAL worship. Do your duty to the Church, each of you, in your proper sphere, and with your full ability, and you will be, it need not be doubted, co-workers with the new-creating Spirit in causing such happy changes to be continually going on; and in bringing thronging multitudes to pour out their hearts, in fervent prayer and joyful praise, in those Sanctuaries of God, where all, agreeably to the exhortation of an Apostle, "SPEAK THE SAME WORDS." Act thus, but above all, and as most conducive to the prosperity of the Church, ever pray "in the Holy Ghost, and keep yourselves in the love of God," and let your heart be "a habitation of God through the Spirit," and then may you confidently hope, then may you firmly believe, "Peace will be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces:" Aye, then you need not doubt that the Lord "will open you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it." You will be "an eternal excellency; a joy of many generations." And when the places that now know you, shall know you no more henceforth forever, places will be yours in the mansions of your heavenly Father's house: and there, surrounded with "companions and friends," "a multitude that no man can number. of all nations, and kindred, [45/46] and people, and tongues, clothed in white robes, and palms in their hands," you will again be engaged in a united and responsive worship:--There, your united anthem will be, "Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb:"--"And the angels standing round about the throne," will RESPOND, "Amen. Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and power, be unto our God forever and ever. Amen." Thus, St. John assures us, worship is conducted in Heaven. In that anthem, may your voices, beloved brethren, at last be heard lifted up. May you all be, in the Church on earth, such "true worshippers of the "Father in spirit and in truth," as "the Father seeketh to worship Him" in "the temple not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens."
THE duties of Wardens and Vestrymen are thus summarily defined in an early number of the Churchman's Magazine, published in New Haven, Connecticut:
The duties of Wardens are,
1. To provide for the church a Prayer-Book and Bible of suitable size, at the expense of the parish.
2. To make the usual collections in the church.
3. To provide, at the expense of the parish, fine white bread and good wholesome wine for the Lord's supper.
4. To provide a book of records, in which to enter, in the absence of a Rector, the names of persons baptised, married, or buried, with the date.
5. To present to the Bishop, or the chairman of the standing committee, every Priest and Deacon who has voluntarily relinquished his sacerdotal office, and uses the employments belonging to laymen.
6. To take care that the church be kept clean, and in good repair; and to preserve order during divine service.
7. To see that persons resort to church.
S. To prevent idle persons remaining in the churchyard, or about the doors of the church, during divine service.
9. To give an account to the Corporation of the church, if it has no treasurer, at the expiration of each year, of all monies received and expended.
 The duty of Vestrymen, or Trustees, is to transact all the temporal business of the church; to collect the money stipulated to be paid to the minister; and at the expiration of the year, if there be a deficiency, to give information thereof to the congregation, and if necessary to enforce the payment.
As it is sometimes asserted that the Episcopal Church attaches too much consequence to Baptism, and gives of it a definition which Scripture will not warrant, I trust I shall be excused for letting the sentiments of other denominations, upon this subject, be known.
The office used by the Lutherans is, almost, word for word the game as that prescribed by our own church.
In the form of discipline of the Methodist Church, baptism is said to seal an interest in the blessings and grace of the new covenant.
The Catechism of the Dutch Reformed Church asserts, that "by this divine pledge and sign we are spiritually cleansed from our sins, as really, as we are externally washed with water."
Calvin in his Catechism says, that forgiveness of sins and newness of life are certainly received by us in baptism.
The Larger Catechism of the Presbyterian Church thus answers the question, "What is baptism? Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ bath ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, to be a sign and a seal of ingrafting into himself; of remission of sin by his blood, and regeneration by his spirit."
The Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church, contains the following plain and strong language: "By the right use of this ordinance, [baptism,] the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such persons, whether of age, or infants, as that grace belongeth unto."--[See Confession of Faith. Chap. 28, Sec. 6.]