STANFORD & SWORDS, 137 BROADWAY.
I propose to offer to the Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church, a few considerations, adapted, it is hoped, to the present state of our ecclesiastical affairs. Should the object I have in view be in any measure realized, they will be incited to take a higher stand, and a more decided and active part in the concerns of the Church.
I. And, first, I would call attention to the use God has ever been pleased to make of lay-instrumentality in His Church.
1. The Jewish priesthood, in its designation, support, and honours, was especially of divine appointment. Yet how few High Priests, Priests, or Levites ever bore a conspicuous part in the history of that dispensation, or appear as leading characters in any effort to revive or extend the worship and fear of God! Laymen stand most prominently forth in all such matters. Joshua settled ecclesiastical affairs in his day, and that so prosperously, that his generation and the following were the best among all the generations of Israel. David and Solomon builded the temple, divided the priests into Courses, regulated the music and worship of God's house, and left an impress on that economy, which continued till the coming of Christ. Elijah and Elisha, two of the greatest of Israel's reformers, were, probably, laymen. Josiah, Hezekiah, Nehemiah, Ezra, and Daniel, all of other tribes than that of Levi, were chosen of God for high and honoured purposes. We disparage not the ministry of that dispensation. We remember the names, of Moses and Samuel, of Jehoida and Ezra, and doubt not but that God used his own consecrated tribe continually in sustaining and extending true religion; yet the fact is indisputable, that few from its ranks had anything like the [3/4] prominence of these favoured laymen in successful labours for the Church.
And, as that dispensation was passing away, while a High Priest with a whole Sanhedrim sought the life of Jesus, a layman, Nicodemus, was his advocate: and when priestly hate had crucified the Saviour, and nearly every Apostle had fled, women stood by the Cross of Christ, and Joseph of Arimathea, with the same Nicodemus, buried him.
2. In the Christian Church, so far as its history is given by inspiration, the Laity were also highly honoured of God. They took part with apostles in the election of Matthias. They shared, on the day of Pentecost and on subsequent occasions, with the twelve, in the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost,--gifts imparted to be used in spreading the Gospel. In the first Council at Jerusalem, the brethren, as well as the apostles and elders, participated and gave sentence. In missionary operations among the Gentiles, the whole Church united. Deaconesses, like Phebe of Cenchrea, ministered with apostolic approval; and if not in the Apostles' days, yet in the primitive Church baptized female converts, collected and distributed alms, and performed other offices less important. [Bingham Ant. L. xi. 12.] Laymen and women taught and laboured successfully in spreading the gospel, as is seen in the case of Aquila and Priscilla, through whom Apollos was converted, in "the beloved Persis, Tryphena, and Tryphosa who laboured much in the Lord;" while the Marys, Theophilus, Cornelius, Onesimus, and many more, shine among the brightest in the gospel galaxy of worthies. In everything, save in acts purely ministerial, there appears to have been no difference between apostles, elders, and brethren,--all seemed to feel that the work of spreading the gospel belonged to them in common; all were qualified for it by miraculous gifts, and all were crowned with success in their labours.
3. In the Church since the days of inspiration, we find a Constantine, by whose munificence and zeal the most important council ever held after the Apostles' days, was assembled, and by whose piety and prudence its deliberations, amid much of contention and petulance, were guided to a happy conclusion. Jerome of Prague, the lay-reformer, appears among the precursors of the Reformation. The wise Elector of Saxony, Edward VI. and Elizabeth, with their sagacious counsellors, were honoured instruments in carrying it on. And, in later [4/5] times, Queen Anne, the liberal friend of our infant Church, Wilberforce, and a host besides in England and in our own country, may be referred to in proof that God has ever honoured laymen in the establishment and furtherance of His Kingdom; while prophecy assures us, that in the latter-day glory kings shall be the nursing fathers, and queens the nursing mothers of the Church.
II. Experience in other Churches testifies to the value of lay-instrumentality.
1. In no Church is so little use made of it as in our own. The Church of Rome, the wisest in the world in accomplishing its ends, though not at all disposed to compromise the claims of its clergy, has its lay-brotherhoods and its sisterhoods, and finds an office and a work for all disposed to work, from the little boy that swings a censer, up to the Lady Superior. Our Protestant brethren generally devolve much of the labour that with us comes upon ministers,--such as visiting the poor and the sick, preparing candidates for a public confession of Christ, with all the machinery of Bible, Tract, Education, and Missionary Societies,--upon laymen, leaving the pastor more to the study and the house of God. The Methodists have an admirable system for making all work, and work altogether, and the Moravians are noted for the ready zeal and self-sacrificing labours of their laity.
2. It may be objected, that our Protestant brethren sometimes find lay-agency a troublesome element in their systems, and complain of ecclesiastical demagogues who intrude upon the sacred office, rendering the pastor literally a servant of servants in his own Church. This may be true. Every good is liable to its attendant evils. Yet, if it be so with them, it does not follow that we should suffer in like manner. A strong, though popular form of government, with ample checks and safeguards, has little to fear from demagogueism; and such a government have we. How seldom does any clergyman of our Church complain of the intrusion of laymen into his functions! So well defined by constitutional law and limits is each one's place, that there is little danger of mistaking it, and so marked is the separation of the ministry, by ordination and office, from the people, that usurpation of the ministerial work is the least of our sins. Indeed, such is the influence of our system, that a turbulent member of some other denomination, brought into our own, soon learns to walk in the paths of order and sobriety.
 III. We may remark, also, that the use of lay-instrumentality, which has been sanctioned by God's Word, and his Providences', and by experience, has the support of reason.
1. Laymen often look at Church matters in a better and truer light than the clergy. They are more conversant with human nature in some of its varied forms, they have a knowledge of business details, very essential in the service of the Church, and they have spheres of action and influence almost inaccessible to the ministry. There is no better school in the world, in which to form a practically wise man, than that of wide-spread mercantile and commercial transactions engaged in with a true Christian spirit. The most useful of our clergy are such as have had some of this training in early life, while the most helpless and inefficient of all worms of the dust is the book-worm, that has crept through College and the Seminary, knowing nothing of men as they are until the field of parish duty has been actually entered. In theological lore the minister may have the advantage, but in practical matters, be he as enlightened as Jeremiah, he may often use to advantage the help of a Baruch.
2. In the case of any error or corruption in the Church, the laity may render special service. "Experience has proved that a reformation cannot be effectual, while it is confined to the clergy,--that of the two classes the laity are most easily affected, and must be the instruments of moving the clergy,--and that ecclesiastics, as a body, very slowly acquiesce in a movement to which self-interest and prejudice are opposed." [Sp. of Missions, Nov. 1852, p. 387.]
3. Then again, there are kinds of labour which none can so well perform as the laity. Every minister knows that female piety has been to him, in many a case, as the hands of Aaron and Hur to Moses, and perhaps has wished that women were actually, as they may have been virtually, the wardens and vestry of his parish. It is to be regretted that Popery has rendered sisterhoods of charity odious, and that the primitive office of a deaconesses now unknown.
IV. We turn next to inquire whether our Church, wise and scriptural as she is in almost every particular, has made due constitutional provision for lay-instrumentality?
1. And in reply, we assert that no Church has so largely and so wisely secured to laymen their rights, or called them so continually into co-operative action, as our own. Our Prayer Book, Articles, and Canons, are set forth by the joint [6/7] act of Bishops, Clergy, and Laity. In all Conventions, General or Diocesan, laymen have an equal voice and vote,--may originate laws or prevent their enactment. No minister of any grade can enter upon his office but with their approval. They call rectors of parishes, and dismiss them, and they hold parish property without the least foreign control. In public worship,--truly styled with us Common Prayer,--they have, in responses, chants, psalms, and hymns, a share equal almost to that of the officiating minister. All usage sanctions lay-reading, and also the performance of the burial service by laymen in the absence of a minister. The rubrics in the forms to be used at sea, clearly set it forth as their duty to officiate when no clergyman is present, and it is well known that naval officers, in such cases, are expressly required by the Church of England to conduct public worship.
2. In one instance only, does there seem to be reason to complain of any restriction laid upon laymen, and that is, in the rule forbidding candidates for orders to read service, save with special license from the Bishop, a license which some of our Bishops reluctantly grant. It appears inconsistent to urge the duty of lay-reading upon those who have no thought of the ministry, and at the same time debar from it those who, as preparing for the sacred office, ought to be best fitted to conduct the worship of God. The testimonials required for ordination, are ample safeguard against any abuse of the privilege. Lawyers have their moot courts for their pupils, and young medical aspirants see much practice before they enter upon their profession; but candidates for our ministry are allowed to acquire no experience in sacred offices, till the whole burden of the ministerial work is thrown upon them. This anomaly, it is hoped, may be done away by early legislation, particularly, as our Church, suffering for want of labourers, has attempted to supply the deficiency by a canon providing a class of deacons not to be licensed to preach. Until, however, the obstacle be removed by competent authority, the candidate for orders must submit to the restraint, and would justly be excluded from the ministry for breaking over it.
V. We come now more to the point of our remarks, and would show that in practical working, though not in constitutional theory and provision, the lay element in our Church has fallen below its proper place.
1. This evil is attracting notice in the mother church.[ "At the Annual General Meeting of the Church Society, in Montreal, the wish was expressed that 'Laymen be permitted greater influence in the management of Church affairs,' to which the Bishop assented, and 'understood that the clergy did not constitute the Church--that all the clergy united with him in a hearty desire for the greater influence of the laity, and that it tended to produce no little apathy among the laity, that they did not remember that all persons baptized into the Church were members of it, and formed part of it, as well as its Bishop or clergy." Sp. of Missions, April, 1858.] [7/8] With the complaint that there the laity are excluded from convocation, we have nothing to do. Nor do we find fault, that here they are not active enough in the mere legislation of conventions. "But the deficiency is, in that they are not enough engaged in sustaining those interests of the Redeemer's Kingdom which are more purely spiritual. The stately seclusion of our bishops and clergy from the people--"the divinity that hedges them about,"--their sole exercise of so many functions,--their seats in the deep chancel, guarded so sedulously by some against the intrusion of laymen,--with the constant harping in the pulpit, upon the dignity of God's ambassadors, and upon the awful danger of the sin of Korah, have driven the people into the other extreme. They fear to do what God and the Church call them to do, and the ministry is left too much alone in matters where it might be greatly aided by the laity. Then again, the natural disposition of the clergy, developed recently in an alarming degree, is to keep all ecclesiastical concerns in their own hands. The Scripture must be received, it is said, through the interpretation of the Church. This means that a congregation must come to their Rector for the interpretation of Scripture, not relying on their own judgment, for if it mean that the Prayer Book is the best expositor of the Bible, as indeed it is, the laity have that in their own hands, and moreover, helped to set it forth, and of course can understand its teachings. Lay representation too, in our conventions, is, of late, much decried, as an unwise concession, though secured to the people by the wisdom of our fathers. Vestries are unpopular in certain quarters. The cup in the Lord's Supper must not be given into the hands of the laity, according to the rubric, but held to their lips. Wardens may no more set the elements upon the communion table, but upon a side table, thence reverently to be transferred by consecrated hands to their proper place. The deeper the chancel the more orthodox the church. If one third of a little country chapel can be appropriated to some small specimen of a minister, needing, perhaps, more than that distance from close observation, it is well. And if there can [8/9] be added the further fence against the laity, of a screen, to render the chancel like the holy of holies, from which, however, Christ tore away the veil, it is all the better. Priestly benediction, with the imposition of hands, is pompously bestowed upon the kneeling couple, in the marriage service. In all Church societies and meetings for Church purposes, the Bishops and Clergy are ex-officio presidents and managers, where, under like circumstances, in the Church of England, some distinguished layman would be called to act, and the result with us often is, that the ex-officio dignity, for want of lay co-operation, becomes non-efficient inactivity. The effort has been repeatedly made, to withhold from the laity, the right of attending on the ministrations of a Rector whom they approved, and to compel them to attend on the services of one whom they disliked, but to whose church they happened to be nearer; and a clergyman was actually presented for trial, as a violator of canons, because, at the wish of a family, he went to officiate at a funeral in the vicinity of another church, though this occurred in one of our cities where there are no parish lines. "The right of any number of laymen to associate and organize a new congregation, within the limits of an old one, whenever and for whatever reasons they think proper, was never doubted in the American Church, until at a comparatively late period, though, by a recent decision--almost by unanimous vote in the Convention of Pennsylvania--that right, ably advocated by the great Canonist of that Diocese, has been affirmed." These and many other changes, all tending to depress the laity and exalt the clergy, are creeping in among us. Mere factitious honour, and usurped exaltation are gained everywhere, be it remembered, by robbery, while due elevation, be it ever so great, leaves to others their duet. The Oriental despot, who hides himself in the awful seclusion of his palace, comes at last to be served by crouching slaves, while true official dignity shines like the brilliant star of night, without eclipsing other stars, or like the throne of Deity, leaving other thrones not shorn of their splendours, but radiant with added glory.
2. And as there is a disposition on the part of the clergy sometimes to unduly exalt themselves, so is it often easy for the laity to surrender just rights, if they can thereby purchase to themselves release from religious responsibilities, the implied reward of such surrender. An intelligent laity, firm in maintaining its own rights, would have averted the encroachments of [9/10] the papal hierarchy. And laymen equally, perhaps, with popes and monks, are answerable for the corruptions of the dark ages. The same spirit that leads the Romanist to give his soul into the hands of his priest, breaks forth in the staunch Churchman, in the oft-repeated exclamation, Oh, I leave all these things to the clergy! God may show him hereafter, that duty and responsibility were not to be so easily thrown off.
3. Again, it is so hard to maintain one's own rights in the face of pride and power,--so unpleasant to be in collision with one's own minister,--so sure is any opposition to him, be it ever so just, to draw down the enmity of brethren in the congregation,--so much easier is it to be still, and enjoy one's own religion,--that many a layman will endure a vast amount of wrong, or make a poor escape from it by going to some other denomination, rather than seek relief by any resistance to clerical arrogance and encroachment. Prom these, and other causes, it has happened that the lay element among us is now unduly depressed, to the present injury of Christ's cause, and to its greater danger in time to come.
VI. Our next point will be to specify particular instances wherein it is thought the laity do not take their proper place in the affairs of the Church.
1. In conducting public devotional exercises and worship, there is often a sinful shrinking from duty on their part. Rubric and usage encourage lay-reading in the absence of a minister. Why do not our laymen oftener undertake it? We have piteous appeals from them for missionaries and aid,--why do they not first help themselves? In some instances, a devout layman, strongly attached to the Church, but deprived of her privileges, has Commenced public worship perhaps in his own dwelling,--has 'gathered a Sunday school,--and then has erected some plain edifice for God's service, encouraged, it may hare been, by an occasional visit of a neighbouring minister, until at last the small beginning has resulted in a convenient church with its settled rector; and the whole accomplished almost without aid from abroad. If there be spiritual life and attachment to the Church, among those destitute of her services, let them go and do likewise. Let not the first step be to have a church edifice that will vie with other denominations, with a minister of popular talents, all at the expense of the charitable in other places, and by wearying applications in our cities, but let the best evidence of vitality, and the best appeal [10/11] for aid, be given in efforts to improve to the utmost advantages already enjoyed. We should never fail to see a flourishing church eventually established, where a few pious laymen, like-minded in love and zeal for our institutions, would thus band together and do what they could among themselves. In hundreds of places congregations might be formed eventually enjoying the ministry, the sacraments, and the full privileges of the Church, did some single communicant but do what another in like situation has done, and what our own rules give him full license to do. Wherever there is a Churchman deprived of the worship he loves, whether in western wilds, on shipboard, or in a parish which has but the partial services of a minister, let him, if circumstances will allow, take upon himself the ministrations of the Liturgy. Numbers of our churches are closed every Lord's day for lack of a minister. What, we ask, is there not a man in them willing to read the service and a sermon, or not enough respected for piety and intelligence to make others willing to hear him? The annals of the Church furnish some glorious facts for the encouragement of such lay effort. In the early history of Connecticut, the influence of one pious layman, clinging to and using his prayer book, may be traced and shown to have been instrumental in bringing into our ministry twenty-seven men, nearly all of whom were educated in the Congregational faith, and in planting fifteen churches which have stood ever since, and how much further that influence may have extended is known only to the Searcher of all things. [Church Review, vol. i., p. 14.]
It would be well too, if, where there is a minister, he could oftener use without censure, the liberty which some do take, of calling for the aid of a layman in special cases, in conducting the service. Our Saviour, while yet a layman was often summoned to help the reader in the Jewish Synagogue, and he sent his disciples forth two and two for mutual support; but with us, such is the wrong state of feeling, that a minister, far away from all clerical aid or exchanges, must go through the whole service, sick or well, when the reading of the lessons, and almost the very presence of a layman with him in the chancel, [11/12] upon whom he could lean in case of necessity, would give him strength for the sermon and sacraments, prevent him perhaps from resigning his charge through enfeebled health, and lengthen out a valuable life for the higher duties of the ministry. [Christ entered on his ministry at his baptism. Before this he was accustomed to aid in the services of the synagogue. St. Luke iv. 16. It is pleasing to think of the Saviour as putting himself in so many of the relations of life as he did, for our example, and among them to regard him as for many years a layman.]
The large promiscuous prayer-meeting is often so much abused as to render it of doubtful expediency. The more private gathering,--as, for instance, of mothers to intercede for their children, of teachers for their Sunday scholars, of a few friends to pray for their Church, or minister, or for missions,--where everything is done quietly, can be liable to no just objection. If our Church gives her laymen liberty to conduct public worship, modi more would she allow them in such social private meetings, and a minister would strangely misunderstand her teachings and his own duty, if he were to object to them, or express any other wish than, "God be with you, pray for me." There are good forms for such meetings in Bishop Griswold's Prayers, or if unwritten prayers be preferred, the Church no more condemns them, than she restricts her ministers in all the varying scenes of pastoral intercourse, or heads of families in their domestic worship, to any particular method of prayer. Bishop White is said to have used prayers of his own composing after sermon or on special occasions. Bishop Griswold was the well-known advocate of the social prayer-meeting,--while such a standard writer as Nelson, in his Festivals and Pasts, says, "I see no reason why men may not meet and consult together to improve one another in Christian knowledge, and by mutual advice take measures how best to further their own salvation, as well as that of their neighbours, when the same liberty is taken for the improvement of trade, and for carrying on the pleasures and diversions of life." "And as for objections from some canons," he adds, "they seem to be founded upon a misunderstanding of the sense of those canons." [Nelson's Festivals and Fasts, Preface to English Edition.] To purer piety or better churchmanship than that of these men, few will pretend. Yet, let it be reiterated, the more private and unobtrusive the gathering, the better will be its fruits. Little bands of intimate Christian friends, of three or four, joining, for mutual benefit, in a society for prayer and Christian counsel,--a society whose existence is known only as the streamlet betrays itself by a brighter verdure along its banks,--will be found in experience the best, and perhaps the only desirable form of the social prayer-meeting.
 2. In direct personal efforts for the salvation of sinners, and for the edification of Christians, there is also a sinful shrinking from duty on the part of our laity.
How many communicants of the Church, live in the midst of friends and neighbours going down to everlasting death, and, perhaps, in a life time, never utter one warning word, nor make so much of an effort to save them as they would if the least temporal-calamity were to be averted. To say that it is the ministers' duty to warn sinners of their danger, is a miserable subterfuge. It is every man's duty. If men were perishing in the flames, it would belong to every one to rescue them,--much more when they are in danger of the fire that is not quenched. The promise to him that "shall convert a sinner from the error of his ways," is not to the ministers alone, nor, in the Apostles' days, were they alone workers in the work of rescue and salvation. The clergy have this personal and direct effort to save souls thrown too exclusively upon them. The pastor, in a city parish, has, perhaps, three or four thousand souls committed to his care, with opportunities of reaching twice that number if he could improve them; or in a country parish, has a field extending many miles, with other fields beyond, it may be, white to the harvest; but what can one man do in the way of bringing home the gospel in its individual application, in such a sphere of labour? Yet in this part of his work, he is too often left almost alone,--nay, it is well if he be not expected to take charge of the secular affairs of his parish,--to build its church edifice by begging, or to be the sexton of his own sanctuary. Is it asked, What can the laity do? They can go out into the highways and hedges, and compel men to come in. They can plead with the intemperate and Sabbath breaker,--take the little child growing up in vice, to the Sunday School,--see that that school be amply supplied with teachers, and with every requisite to success,--talk with the inquiring, and notify the Rector of any instance of awakened attention to religion where a word from him may deepen good impressions,--assist in finding candidates for Confirmation and the Sacraments,--visit the sick and pray with them,--persuade all around to a regular attendance on God's house,--and above all, watch for every occasion, where with humility and love, and so far as is consistent with the rules of Christian civility, they may speak freely with those over whom they have influence, urging them on in the paths of life. In all these ways, every minister has a right to expect in every member of his Church, a faithful coadjutor. [13/14] How many thousands might be brought under the influence of the Gospel, did each believer realize this responsibility.
3. In combined efforts for the spread of the Gospel, and for the support of its charities, our laity do not bear their proper part.
They give, perhaps, liberally,--we trust they add their prayers,--but something more is needed. As it now is, the minister, usually without consultation with them, selects the benevolent objects to be sustained, receives and disburses the funds, and the people have tot the simple duty of laying their offering upon the plate. Now it seems as if the laity should be taken more into council in these matters,--that their burdens should be self-imposed,--that they, together with the rector, should select the fields of labour,--and that taxation and representation should go together. Let the laity in each parish form themselves into some association for benevolent purposes, so that they will be under the necessity of acquainting themselves with the wants of the Church, and thus be more incited to take hold and relieve them, and the result would be, that instead of the pittance gathered by a cold collection, many a parish would find itself able singly to sustain a missionary in the foreign or domestic field. The mind and heart of the people would be brought into more immediate contact with the destitution to be relieved, heavier burdens would be self-imposed, and, so imposed, more easily borne. Especially would such be the result, if a constant intercourse were kept up with the missionary, or beneficiary, so that his wants and labours might react upon their efforts. Giving to any and every object that may present itself by a plate contribution, is like casting seed wheat on the ground, and going our way, while combined effort directed to a few points, is enclosing the field and working steadily upon it until the harvest. Those parishes where there is organized by co-operation in charities, will generally show in comparison the most satisfactory results.
4. The duty of the laity in regard to what may be termed Church legislation in parish and-convention, may claim a passing notice.
We find fault with the Church of England, because the people choose not their own minister; but how much better, in point of practice, is it with us? Vestries call, and dismiss the rector, but how are vestrymen elected? Frequently by the votes of one or two who may attend the election, so that these [14/15] may virtually choose or dismiss the rector. When the Church secured to the people the right of selecting their own wardens and vestrymen, she meant that it should be intelligently and religiously exercised. It may be urged that the congregation have confidence that all will be rightly done, and so will not leave their business to go to the polls when there is no contest; but suppose all is not rightly done, where does the blame lie? If a board of bank directors trust wholly to a few individuals through misplaced confidence, and there be failure and ruin, will the board be guiltless? Many a church has had its funds mismanaged,--an obnoxious rector called, or a valuable one thwarted or driven away,--a lay delegation chosen that misrepresented in convention the mass of their constituents, because the apathy of the people left church elections in the hands of a few crafty men, always wide awake to secure their own measures. No minister of right feelings will be gratified with seeing two or three voters only at the polls at the Easter elections, even though it should leave the concerns of the church in his own hands. He will be chilled by such indifference. We do not desire that our churches should become the places of electioneering and party strife; but we do want to have our laity thoroughly acquainted with the affairs of their own parish, and sufficiently interested to be sure that the right men be chosen to administer them.
In our conventions we have usually more than enough of the subtilties of legal men, who, though their aid is often invaluable, have also done much to render lay representation odious by forgetting that a religious body should not always be tied to the precision of civil courts; but we do sadly want, both from laity and clergy, an effort to make those gatherings spiritually more profitable to attendants and to the Church at large. As now conducted, with some exceptions, they merely keep the running gear of the machinery in order, but add no motive power. The devotional exercises from day to day draw only a few stragglers. Persons not members find little to attract, unless there be an important election, or some quarrel going on. Missionary meetings excite little interest. Debates are so in the spirit of the world, that it becomes a question whether they should be allowed in consecrated edifices. And "Gloria in Excelsis" is sung with great fervor at an adjournment, if there can be a separation with any tolerable degree of harmony. Should it be so, when the wisdom and piety of the Church are brought into council? We want our laity to be, [15/16] not prominent when the technicalities of a canon are discussed, but silent or absent when missions and the more spiritual interests of the Redeemer's kingdom are concerned, but to lend their aid in making a convention a place where all shall feel it good to be, and a centre of holy and quickening influences which shall make glad the city of our God.
5. A further, and important point wherein our laity are wanting, is that of opposing innovation and error.
It cannot be denied, save from ignorance of or sympathy with the movement, that, during the last twenty years, our communion has suffered greatly from a Romanizing tendency, in a small but active minority. To have prophesied a short time ago, to an American Churchman, what he may have lived to witness, would have called forth a-derisive or an angry retort. Nor can we be sure that we yet see the end of the evil. We can see, however, by what steps it approaches and progresses. Certain premonitory symptoms, protracted through a course of years, are too generally followed by the fatal issue, and when these set in, Mends bare only to look on to see how long a good constitution will resist,) with but faint hope that it will triumph. Among these premonitions we may rank the great exaltation of the priestly office,--changes in the chancel, whereby, perhaps, the plain table gives place to an altar,--undue stress laid upon Baptism, and unscriptural magnifying of Sacramental Grace,--the frequent repetition of the words "Holy Catholic Church," or "Holy Mother Church," while the name of Jesus, and the work of the Spirit, are seldom mentioned,--much cant concerning "Catholic Unity" and "Catholic Doctrine,"--bowing at the name of Jesus with such excessive prostration as to attract the notice and admiration of a congregation,--turning the back upon the people in the service,--intoning, or otherwise departing from old modes of conducting it,--walking in a garb heretofore appropriated to the priests of Rome,--displaying magnificent golden crosses upon the breast, strange emblems of a heart crucified to the world, not half so fitting as the iron cross of the monks with its jagged points laid within upon lie skin,--much attention to ecclesiology, and ability to find not only sermons, but sacraments, in stones,--surpliced processions, &c,--with many other like indications too numerous to mention. The patient may indignantly deny that the malady is upon him; nay, like other diseased ones, may fancy that he alone is sound; but experience shows, that all perversions to Rome have been [16/17] preceded by such symptoms. Where is the remedy? We answer, that under God, it is in a great measure in the hands of the laity. The disease is a clerical one. Few of the laity have gone to Rome, and those few usually in the train of some clerical pervert. In the parishes where the worst of these Romanizers labour, scarce half a dozen of the people fully sympathize with them. We have here one of those cases, where, if two walk together, and one fall, the other may lift him up, and where the wisdom of God is seen in binding clergy and laity together in the church. Dreamy speculations, and longing after some imaginary good, may draw the minister towards Rome, and the sober, practical wisdom of the laity should be the conservative check upon the movement.
But what is the remedy, and how shall it be applied? We answer, one important part of it consists in keeping the Church, in worship and customs, free from every innovation and change not sanctioned by universally acknowledged authority. Experience shows, that if a minister be allowed to tamper with the worship of a church, he can soon subvert its faith. By such a process, many a congregation in New England was transferred to Unitarianism, and by it we may be carried towards Rome. Twenty years ago, the principle was almost universally recognized among us, that there could be no departure from usages established by law or custom, save with the sanction of competent authority. Our troubles date from the subversion of this principle.
We call upon the laity, then, to restore that conservative safeguard, by determining to give no countenance or quarter to any change from the usages of the fathers of American Episcopacy, that may be introduced by individual caprice or opinion. The least innovation once called forth indignant remonstrance, now the boldest innovators are deemed the best Churchmen. Let us seek the old paths. As a preliminary, let the laity look with jealousy upon every novelty among us, that has sprung up within the last twenty years. Then let the three following rules be well considered. First. Every Church, as the preface of our Prayer Book asserts, has a right to regulate its own forms and usages, so that the substance of the faith be kept entire. Second. Our American Church has used this liberty, establishing, by the revision of the Prayer Book, and by its canons, a written law, and by the practice of our fathers, a common law, for our branch of the Church of God. Third. No individual of any grade, has any right to introduce customs, [17/18] not sanctioned by the written or common law of the Church. It may be said, that we have no common law in the American Church, but that customs have always varied. This is not so. Early general usage, in all important matters, is clear, and at any rate, where it is so, we should bow to it. Now the application of the above rules will commonly make the path of duty plain. If a minister introduce customs which appear strange, pleading Catholic antiquity, or the usage of some other Church for them, a laymen may reply, that we have our own laws and are bound by them, and by none other. If a minister preach in the surplice,--turn his back upon the people in worship,---intone the service, or divide it, or stepping out into the middle aisle, and kneeling there with his back to the people, chant the litany,--or discard the name of Protestant Episcopal for that of Reformed Catholic, with other things of a like nature, he may well be asked where he finds authority for them in that church to which he has vowed allegiance. If he appeal to the usages of some other church, he may be asked whether we are bound by its usages or by our own? He may be told that such practices were unknown among us until within the last twenty years; certainly that they could not be called the general usage of toe church, and are therefore likely to be a part of the Romanizing movement,--that if our General Convention recommend a custom, as it did'some years ago in repeating the Confession, it is a churchman's duty to obey; but that if each individual may introduce changes, there is an end to our boasted uniformity, if not of our doctrinal soundness,--that already a presbyter of Bishop Hobart's day hardly knows how to conduct the worship in some of our modern churches, and written rules are left in the vestry-room, as they are in the psalm book in Congregational pulpits, for the guidance of the stranger who may officiate,--that these changes lead to contentions among brethren, so that ministers refuse to exchange with each other on account of them, and so that the people are disturbed by them in their worship,--that if the things complained of are little matters, those who trouble the Church with them do wrong to introduce them; and if they be not little matters, but significant of great doctrinal truths, then it is proper to resist them, save as proposed by rightful authority,--that those who have gone to Rome have been notorious for such innovations,--and therefore, from all these considerations, that it is the duty of every American churchman to oppose every novelty at the outset, and to keep our faith and worship [18/19] where they have been left by recognized and competent authority.
Surely there must be many among the clergy who have adopted the new customs without much reflection, who will readily lay them aside and return to the old paths, when the subject is presented to them in this light, and not persist in that which is but a mere matter of taste with them, when they find it gives rise to jealousies and contentions among brethren; though there will be others, who attach so deep significance to such a matter as bowing to the altar with the back to the people, that they will persevere, whoever is offended, and whether it have the sanction of the American Church or no.
If such a course of resistance and remonstrance had been taken years ago, how different would have been our present condition! [It is gratifying to know, that one diocese has taken just the stand which is advocated in these pages. In Wisconsin, Canon VIII., as given from memory by a clergyman of that Diocese, is to the following purport:--RITUAL UNIFORMITY. It shall be the duty of all clergymen canonically connected with this Diocese, to conform to the common custom and usages of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in all the services of the same. And whensoever any clergyman shall be in doubt as to what common custom is, it shall be his duty to apply to the Bishop in charge of the Diocese, who shall, in council, with the Standing Committee, be the judges of what the custom is, and their decision given in writing shall be binding on said clergyman.] But it so happened, that while an ultra Low Churchman, who took the least liberty with the service, was wont to be denounced as a breaker of his ordination vows, there crept in among us a class professing extraordinary reverence for the Church, who took ten thousand-fold greater liberties, and the people looked on, amused by their antics, or deceived by their professions, until the great conservative principle of our faith was gone, and every minister innovates as he pleases, provided he does it according to Catholic usage, and none say him nay. What have we gained by all these changes? Is there more submission to Episcopal and other authority than there was twenty years ago? Is there more peace and unity? Are our young clergy, with their golden crosses and popish coats, more faithful labourers than their fathers who eschewed such clerical vanities? Do we gain more from other denominations? Are our missions more prosperous? Are we holier? If any great practical good could be shown to have resulted from the recent movement, we might be content, but when its fruits have been evil and only evil,--when scarcely a prosperous [19/20] church or diocese can be named whose rector or bishop has sympathised with it, we are justified in calling upon the laity to return to the old conservative principle, and to allow no change unsanctioned by rightful authority. If any want greater liberty, let them quit the Church. There is room enough in it as left by our fathers, for all true-hearted zeal, and when more room is needed, it will be provided, as the wants of the Church demand, by her general legislation.
In applying these rules, we would say to the laity, be wary, in the present times, in the choice of a rector. Inquire if he be a Protestant Churchman, or a Reformed Catholic who sneers at the Reformation,--know him to be no favourer of Romanizing doctrines or practice?,-^-and consult those on whose judgment you may rely, whether he be tinctured with Tractarian notions, rejecting him at once if you be not satisfied. If you are already afflicted with a rector who shows you sacramental spoons, with five emblematic holes, mysterious emblems of our Saviour's wounds, or who attempts to re-model the chancel at which your fathers worshipped, giving it some form and significance to them unknown,--or who ventures on his own authority to impose upon our Church a new name, with other things of alike nature, resist him by all Christian means, remonstrate with him, withhold his supplies, leave not the Church yourself, but compel him to leave, or he will bring it to ruin. Refuse all missionary aid to men of Tractarian tendencies, and support not men who estimate the success of their mission, and the piety of their people, by the number of attendants upon a daily service. Do not withdraw from the work of missions, but exercise discrimination, and be sure that your means go into safe channels. The largest revenues of charity come from members of our church, utterly abhorring all Romanizing tendencies; and it will be hard indeed if they must give to societies which employ men notoriously unsound, and who prove themselves to have been so, by turning Romanists, after having fed for years on missionary stipends. If an applicant comes for aid in erecting a church edifice, or for a destitute parish, be satisfied first as to the character of the application, ere you give. Disseminate books and papers only of a sound Protestant character, and see that your children are poisoned by none of an opposite character, drawn from the Sunday School library. In short, be firm in resisting the evil in its every form and manifestation. We ask nothing which any law-abiding, true Episcopalian can object to, when we urge you [20/21] to keep to the old paths, and never suffer changes upon individual authority. There is no radicalism, but the truest conservatism, in the course here advised. We ask for nothing, but for the Church as she stood twenty years ago; and if, in pleading for this, we be accused as troublers of Israel, Elijah's reply to Ahab is the fitting response. No sound old-fashioned Churchman will blame such a policy, and as for the censure of those who would remove our landmarks, it is the best praise. You will often be jeeringly asked to tell what Puseyism is, and the very question will reveal a Tractarian to you, for none other, after the sad havoc made by that error, could speak slightingly of such an evil. You will be called an alarmist. You will be told that those who have gone from us to Rome, have only gone to labour in another part of the Master's vineyard, and that such a change was preferable to joining the ranks of the Sectaries; but you will remember, that not so did the reformers and martyrs of our Church judge. Keep steadily on, with the one end in view of maintaining things as they were left to us by our American fathers, or as they may have been changed by subsequent legislation, and we shall soon see who are true Churchmen and the true friends of peace.
It may be, that such a course will put a layman in opposition to his Bishop;--still the duty of resisting unauthorised innovation remains the same.
If a bishop turn his back upon the people in prayer or in the doxology, he is not so exalted but that he may be asked, where, in the rules or usages of the American church is his authority for so doing,--whether it is a right principle for each individual to make such changes,--and whether, if there be deep significance in the act, it ought not first to have the sanction of our own church legislation,--or if it be but a trifling form, why disturb old feelings or prejudices by its introduction?
Nicodemus, a laymen, opposed a whole council of God's priests, and St. Paul calls upon the people to withstand himself, or an angel of God's, preaching any other gospel than that they had received. If a bishop is set of God in the Church as an apostle, so is the layman as a member, and there is a divine call and right of the laity, as well as of a bishop in his higher sphere. It would be a strange idea, that because of his Episcopal office, such a pervert as has just left us, might innovate and corrupt, without an opposing word from the people. In his proper sphere, and as he deserves them by apostolic zeal, humility and holiness, God forbid that any bishop should [21/22] lack reverence and submission; but when extravagant claims are founded merely upon official character, and when they overrun scriptural and constitutional bounds, may no American churchman be so recreant to duty as to shrink from the boldest and most earnest resistance. A factious churchman is almost a contradiction in terms. Loyalty to the Church is the characteristic of our people, but loyalty to the church as a whole may sometimes require opposition to particular acts, though sanctioned with a seeming show of authority.
There are, of course, more important aspects of the Romanizing movement, than that which has been presented. Doctrinal unsoundness, and we fear also a want of vital piety, is at the root of all these outward developments; and for these we want more of prayer for the influences of God's holy Spirit. Were our troubles and chastisements to draw us more to God for the dews of his grace upon our Church, we should find that would be the best remedy for every evil. Unsound ministers are the product, as well as the curse, of an unfaithful church, just as worms breed only in diseased parts of the body, while a healthy frame is sot annoyed with them. But so far as any outward remedy is concerned, the laity can only reach the root of the evil by breaking down every shoot as soon as it appears; And that is not an ineffectual process. Had there been on the part of the people, from the outset, a determined opposition to all innovations,--to the slang and cant of Catholicism and ecclesiology,--to the new arrangement of chancel and altar,--to the miserable policy of a daily service, unknown to our fathers, and required neither by Scripture nor the Church,--to the increasingly bitter and exclusive position towards other denominations into which some would force us,--and to other changes, too numerous to mention, which have marked the last twenty years, few of those perversions we have witnessed would have taken place, and the evils we groan under would have been nipped in the bud. And, though it will be harder to retrace our steps, yet even now, if the people will, they have the power, under God, to carry back the Church to the position where she stood before the days of change. Nor can any true Churchman deny the soundness of the principle, that all customs not sanctioned by Church legislation, which are opposed to early general usage, are of right to be done away. Let all which this rule would cut off be removed, and we shall be rid of a load of novelties, which mar our once boasted uniformity, are sources of annoyance and jealousies, [22/23] and have often proved but stepping-stones to Romanism Ninety-nine hundredths of our laity, it is believed, are true to the Protestant character of our Church. Let them feel and know their strength, and exert it, and with God's blessing, all will be well. Nor let any fear that such appeals will arouse a captious and rebellious spirit among the laity, or deem them a betrayal of the rights of clerical order. The clergy have nothing to fear, while they go forward in the way of earnest effort for the salvation of souls. The instance can rarely be found, where a minister, who has given himself in faithful endeavours to save the souls of his people, has failed of their love and confidence. If, forsaking the preaching of Christ crucified, he occupy himself with building stone altars, or explaining the sacramental import of every window, finial, and turret of the church edifice, let him meet with the fate he deserves from the honest indignation of an abused people, let them say, "thou shalt not live, for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord." He who is made the instrument of converting a sinner from sin to holiness, will be pretty sure of gaining his love, and he who approves himself to every man's conscience, as one earnestly seeking their eternal welfare, will not often be hindered by faction, discord, or want of respect and affection among his people.
In the providence of God, the Tractarian movement may have its use in leading the people to search and know for themselves what is truth and what their duty. "We used to go to Church," said a layman, "to hear the gospel, now we go to watch whether the minister preaches Puseyism." The change maybe healthful, though it be not pleasant. "Eternal vigilance is the price of religious, as well as of civil liberty." The times demand that every man should have a discriminating knowledge of gospel truth, a just view of his own rights and duties as an American Churchman, and a firm determination to contend earnestly for the faith. The wonder is, that the blood of Republican and Protestant Episcopalians has not been roused by what we have suffered to some more vigorous resistance. We have had a set of men among us, who have openly scoffed at the Reformation,--infused into our religious literature popish sentiments,--preached in our pulpits doctrines akin to the worst errors of Romanism,--denounced Cranmer and Latimer, White and Hobart, as no churchmen,--made our savour to be abhorred by other Christians,--run down our congregations,--startled old sober Episcopalians with new [23/24] pranks,--fed upon our Church livings and missionary stipends up to the very moment of entering the Romish priesthood,--and then, after doing us all the mischief they could, they have gone, deacons, presbyters, and a bishop bringing up the rear, to the mother of harlots and abominations, to make their submission to her;--or they yet remain to do her work, perhaps with her connivance, a little longer, ere they too tear off the mask and stand forth papist in name, as for years they have been in heart;--while some traitorous sympathisers with them, console us by saying that the change to Rome is only going into a sister Church,--that the men have acted conscientiously,--and that they have done far better than if they had joined the sectaries! And what has the Sound Protestant portion of our Church, which comprises ninety-nine hundredths of it, done, while this has been going on? Just nothing at all. We have laughed sometimes at the odd fancies of Tractarians,--regarded their innovations as mere temporary evils,--uttered the imbecile cry, "We dislike these things, but we do not like to oppose our minister,"--and so let the evil progress, "until its results are what we have seen. May God arouse every man among us who loves the Church in her Protestant character, and desires to see her remain where the wisdom and piety of our forefathers left her, to a vigorous, prayerful, conscientious, undying resistance against the Romanizing movement in all its forms, and in its slightest manifestations!
Such are the considerations deemed worthy of the notice of the laity at the present crisis. They are the result of some experience, and the offering of one who has ever stood aloof from party men and measures,--who will rank himself second to none in attachment 'to all the distinctive principles of our Church,--and who has endeavoured to prove his faith in and love, for her, by his works. Give to these suggestions such attention and action as they may seem in the sight of God to demand. Nothing on earth was ever better fitted to do the Redeemer's work in converting and sanctifying the souls of men,--to evangelise the W5ad to approve herself to all as the home and refuge their souls need, than the American Episcopal Church, if her theory and principles be carried out, and all imbued with the living spirit of piety. And as our beloved Church stood, but a few years ago, she seemed just about realizing all that we believe her fitted to accomplish. Heavy will be the reckoning of those misguided men, who have brought distrust and jealousy into our ranks,--turned back the [24/25] current of accessions to our numbers,--palsied missionary effort,--destroyed the uniformity of our worship,--and while professing to shun both Rome and Geneva, have helped many both to Rome and Geneva, who might otherwise have still worshipped at our altars. If "the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means," it is ever because "the people love to have it so." May God, of his mercy, give our laity grace to take that position, and exert that influence which shall tend most effectually to render our Church a name and a praise in the earth, and secure to them the plaudit, Well done, good and faithful servants, enter ye into the joy of your Lord!
The Daily Service.
Among the innovations referred to in the preceding pages, the Daily Service is worthy of a separate and special notice.
If the efforts to introduce it had been rested only on the grounds of privilege and spiritual profit, they might have been passed by in silence, though even then of doubtful expediency. Bat when the Daily Service is urged as "a great Catholic principle," as "a constant sacrifice," and "full of intense meaning and reality beyond what nine-tenths of Church-going people understand"--when an attempt is made to enforce it as a duty from the authority of Scripture and the Church--when attendance upon it is appealed to as a proof of superior piety--when a list of churches, open every morning and evening for service, is paraded in our papers, and each accession to it noted "as a triumph of the truth--when laymen express astonishment that certain churches have no daily service, and more than intimate that the rectors thereof can be no true Churchmen--and when individuals who have been under a particular training can be satisfied with no ministry that does not uphold the public worship of God twice in each day of the year--it is time for us to examine the subject, and inquire what God, the Church, and our soul's welfare demand of us in the matter. [Ecclesiologist, January, 1858.]
1. And first, let us look to the word of God for guidance.
It will not be pretended that there is any command from Christ or his Apostles enjoining upon the Christian Church a daily service. The chief argument from Scripture is drawn, by way of inference, from the daily sacrifice of the Jewish temple. That was, however, no parallel case. The temple was the [26/27] only lawful place of sacrifice. The lamb there vicariously offered was for the millions of Israel, and it mattered not, with regard to its efficacy, whether they were present, or not, in the holy land, or scattered to the ends of the earth. The services were performed, not as with us, by one minister, but by thousands on duty at the same time, and serving but one month in the year, whose labours were not like those of our clergy, a severe tax on the mental and vocal powers, but for the most part an exercise of mere physical strength. To the temple sinners came at all times with the offering their case demanded, and priests must be ever in attendance to receive them. There the undying fire and light needed constant attendance. And there, above all, God dwelt in visible glory. Now, how absurd to infer from such a state of things the duty of daily morning and evening worship in every Christian Church! The hour spoken of by our Lord has come, when God no longer, to foreshadow the incarnation, has his visible dwelling-place in a temple, where alone men must worship the Father. The mercy-seat is in heaven. The one sacrifice has been there presented. The High Priest ever ministers there. And, though a special blessing does rest on public worship now, yet our churches have no such exclusive blessing and presence of God as the Jewish sanctuary had. If a daily service had been commanded to every city and village in Judea, the case might have been more in point. The Jews had indeed a synagogue service twice in each week, besides that of the Sabbath; but it was not, so far as we know, commanded of God; and most Christian congregations, though not pretending to a daily worship, have usually as many week-day services, of some kind, as the Jews had in their synagogues.
But we are directed to the examples of eminent believers in the days of Christ and his Apostles. Anna, we are told, departed not from the temple day or night. True. She was a prophetess, and her place was there to testify to the worshippers of a coming Saviour. Her example weighs no more in favour of a daily service than the Baptist's vocation in the wilderness does against it. We are told again, that the Apostles and Jewish Christians went daily to the temple, at the hour of prayer. So they clung also to the Sabbath, and Circumcision, and to all the rites of Moses. They were Christians with Jewish prejudices. They had been accustomed to worship before a present Deity, and they could not easily forget it, even [27/28] when the veil had been rent by a departing God. But did the Christian Gentiles so worship? Or can it be shown that, in any church out of Judea planted by St. Paul, the Apostle most thoroughly emancipated from Jewish prejudices, there was a daily service observed? If such an example could be adduced, it might have weight, but the clinging of Jewish Christians to their old customs has none. It was but as the lingering of bees for a time around the old hive, while the monarch had removed to a new and a better, where they, too, were soon contentedly to settle. We conclude, therefore, that we have no shadow of authority from inspiration for a daily service in the Christian Church.
2. Nor, secondly, does the Church lend it her sanction. The customs of ancient or Romish Churches are not our law. We have our own rules and usages. And no canon or rubric or general usage requires or favours a daily service. [In the Preface to the Prayer Book of the Church of England, the use of the Daily Service is made imperative; but the very fact that such a rule was left out of our American Prayer Book shows that, in the judgment of its compilers, it was inexpedient to attempt to enforce it. (See Book's Ch. Dictionary, p. 218.)] There is indeed an "Order for Daily Morning and Evening Prayer" standing like a ladder to heaven, ever ready for our ascent, but not requiring us to be always upon it. If the daily use of it is imperative or desirable, why have the Bishops and Fathers of the Church neglected it? Were they all transgressors of their own laws? Even in England, a daily service, save as Tractarian innovators have lately introduced it, is unknown except in Cathedrals, and there, it is believed, only in the morning. And in this country, till the last twenty years, a solitary instance of a daily service cannot probably be named. The most that was attempted was to have prayers on Litany and Saints' days, in the morning. Are we wiser and better than our fathers? Wonderful, in the eyes of those venerated men, would be the changes they would witness, if now permitted to come among us! To their sober, old-fashioned piety, two services on the Lord's day, with perhaps a meeting or two in the week, was thought enough, and the constant running to meetings was contemned as a Presbyterian thing; but now, the true son of the Church, discovering a great Catholic truth unknown to the fathers, deems him the best Churchman who multiplies most the services of God's house. [28/29] There are others, however, who will look upon him rather as approaching thereby that corrupt form of Christianity which has indeed multiplied outward rites, but lost proportionally the inward spirit of our religion.
3. We object to the Daily Service on other grounds.
It tends to nourish a formal godliness. There is always most danger of formalism in observances not commanded of God, and not even required by the Church. They become "will-worship,"--that fruitful mother of spiritual pride and formal godliness. The Pharisee boasted not of keeping the Passover, which was God's appointment, but of fasting twice in the week, which was his own. The Romanist rests with more complacency in his aves and abstinences, than in his observance of the Lord's day. And upon the same principle it is, that one who goes twice to the Lord's house on each day of the week, will be in more danger of spiritual pride from that source, than from attendance on God's appointed worship or sacraments.
4. We object to a Daily Service, because the time occupied in it may be more profitably employed. Three hours per day would be a small allowance for two services, with the time spent in going to and from them. Now, within a little distance from the place of meeting, there may be tens of thousands who never go to God's house, and multitudes of children belonging to no Sunday-school--the poor, and sick, and dying, who have none to minister to them. And we ask, which would evince the most unselfish piety, to spend these three hours in God's house, or in seeking to bring those who never spend an hour there to share its privileges? It may be said, we can find time for both duties. But the minister must be rarely gifted, who can meet the demands of the study, the parish, and the daily service, and yet have ample leisure to labour among the destitute. And suppose a layman to give eight hours to business, two to family and private devotion, some little space to recreation and literature, with three to the Daily Service, how much will be left to that work of going about and doing good in which Christ delighted? Let the three hours be occupied by minister and people among the destitute, would it not promote as healthy piety in the soul, and rise as acceptably to God, as a worship in his house not commanded by him, and at the same time make the wilderness around blossom as the rose? It is the spirit of Romanism to seclude from the world, for unrequired acts of worship. It is the spirit of the Gospel to use faithfully the few and simple [29/30] appointments of God, and then to carry forth their influence into the world, in our business and in labours among the destitute.
5. A Daily Service is too great a tax upon the strength of a minister. Numbers are laid aside from the work of the ministry, by loss of voice or of health, and medical knowledge ascribes the increasing evil to the increased call upon the clergy for public religious exercises. To conduct the worship of God's house, is not an effort like that of reading aloud in the study or the family for an hour, as every minister well knows. When visits to Europe for health are becoming so common among the clergy as to awaken the smile of suspicion, the suggestion here offered against the Daily Service is worthy of consideration.
6. We object to the Daily Service, because it is apt to interfere with family and private prayer. Secret devotion is enjoined by Christ, family prayer is sanctioned by his example. Daily public worship can plead for neither precept nor pattern in Christ, and therefore is not to take precedence of that which has his higher warrant. Yet many hesitate not to avow that they have no family or private prayer, because they regard the Daily Service as sufficient. And, where duty is better understood, secret devotions will be apt to be shortened, and family prayer sometimes omitted in the hurry of getting ready for church; so that, in the latter case, to let one or two of the household go to the sanctuary, the rest of its members must be unblessed by the intercessions of the domestic altar.
1. We object to the Daily Service, because its results, wherever it has been tried, condemn it. The most sanguine of its supporters confess their disappointment and mortification. In one of the largest of our city churches, crowded on the Lord's Day, the Ecclesiologist admits that there is frequently an attendance of but six or eight at the Daily Service, and calls for the remedy of a full choir, with other attractions of a like doubtful character, to induce people to come. Now, we ask, do the little handful of Churchmen who urge the Daily Service, and that so strenuously as to bring out to it many who are not very fully convinced of its expediency, but attend because their minister is there, mean to contend that they only have right views of duty; or will they allow that the practice of nine tenths of their brethren, as good and wise as themselves, shows that the Daily Service is neither commanded, expedient, [30/31] or necessary? Church sentiment is very decidedly against the Service, and it would savour of arrogance to resolve it into lukewarmness and worldliness, save in the enlightened few.
8. It is urged, that it is well enough to have a few places in our large cities open for Daily Service, for the aged and infirm, and for those who have nothing to do. We reply, that the Church may be better employed than in furnishing religious privileges for the idle. And those who are well enough, to go to God's house, are well enough to engage in works of charity. Besides, such an idea of the Daily Service is contrary to a favourite notion of its advocates, viz., that it should be a standing protest and barrier against worldliness, so that those most occupied with the world may break off for a little while from their business and commune with God; not that the privilege should be for those who have nothing else to do but to enjoy it.
9. We have seen that neither Scripture, Church-rule, usage, nor experience, give their sanction to the Daily Service. It may be thought a pity that any should be discouraged from ever so frequent attendance on God's worship, in a world where it is so much neglected. We discourage from nothing which God has commanded, or the piety of the Church judged expedient. We regard those who urge the Daily Service as innovators, and as greatly mistaken as to the wants of the soul, and of the present age. There is worldliness and lukewarmness enough, we confess, to make the heart of the Christian ache. But where is the remedy? Not in multiplying services, but in using with greater power those we already have--the few simple appointments of God and the Church. To add to them a daily morning and evening service, or to go on still further and take up with the midnight worship of the monks, would be like piling coverings upon a man shivering with a chill, adding no warmth, and but labour lost. We want more of the power of the Holy Ghost, in the ministry of the Word and the means of grace already enjoyed. We want more of the love of Christ shed abroad in the heart. We want, especially, greater faithfulness in private prayer. Could the whole Church, ministers and people, be brought down before God in earnest secret intercession for the influences of the Holy Spirit--could ministers come from their closets with their hearts filled with the love of Christ and of souls; and could Christians pray more for their [31/32] pastors that utterance might be given them, and for themselves that they might listen aright--we should find here a remedy which would reach the heart of the Church, dispel its chill and send the warm current of life and health through all its members God give us, not added means of grace, but added power in his own appointed and all sufficient means.