DOCTRINES OF THE CHURCH.
PREACHED IN ST. JAMES'S CHURCH, PHILADELPHIA;
AT THE OPENING OF THE GENERAL CONVENTION
PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH,
WEDNESDAY, MAY 17, 1820.
BY THE RIGHT REVEREND
Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church for the Diocess of Virginia.
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2009
I TIMOTHY, CHAP. IV. verse 16.--" Take heed unto thyself, and unto thy doctrine,
continue in them: for in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee."
THE writings of St. Paul are universally marked with the strongest features of piety and intellect. His energetic mind was always upon the stretch, in the promotion of the hallowed cause, in which he had engaged. The doctrines he preached proclaim him the subject of Divine influence, and are calculated to comfort the penitent sinner in every age, and to inspire his mind with confidence in his illustrious teacher. Calvary formed the theme of his discourse. Whether preaching to the Jew or to the Greek, the attention of his auditory was directed to the Cross. Though to the one it proved a stumbling block, and by the other was pronounced foolishness, still his animating subject, was "Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."
The Epistle from which I have selected my text, was written by Paul during his confinement at Rome, and a short time before he suffered martyrdom. He had settled Timothy at Ephesus, and was anxious that he should put forth all his strength [3/4] in guarding the principles, and in securing the order and the interests of the Christian church. Important, brethren, must appear the considerations proposed to Timothy, when we call to mind the period in which they were suggested. No object of minor consequence could have presented itself to the view of the Apostle, at a moment clothed with such peculiar solemnity. A few hours were to close the scene of his temporal existence, to deprive Timothy of that protection which had so often proved his shield, and of that counsel which had reflected light upon his path.
The salvation of Timothy, the Apostle knew was dependent upon his pastoral fidelity: the holy father, absorbed in the consideration of the happiness of his pupil, suspended for a moment his supplications for himself: the powers of his mind, the affections of his heart, were concentrated and fixed upon the safety of his beloved son, and the advancement of the Church of Christ. He called upon him to reflect upon the nature of his charge; the awful responsibility of his ministerial character; to take heed: "Take heed unto thyself; and unto thy doctrine, continue in them: for in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee."
As this opportunity will, in all probability, be the last, in which I shall address you at the opening of a General Convention;--as my age and labours justify me in the hope of being heard with candour and indulgence, and as the sacred office I hold calls upon me to bear witness to the truth;--I must beg your attention, while I consider, in the first place, the Apostle's advice to Timothy personally--"take [4/5] heed to thyself;"--secondly, his admonition relative to the principles he should inculcate--"take heed unto thy doctrine;"--thirdly, the consequences resulting from his fidelity--"in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee."
First, the Apostle's advice to Timothy personally, "take heed unto thyself." Before I enter upon this head of my discourse, I would wish it to be understood, that the observations I shall offer do not arise from any supposed delinquency in those whom I address: but as the subject is of the greatest importance to our usefulness as teachers, and to our characters as ministers of Christ, some benefit may arise, from bringing to our recollection, the solemn obligations into which we have entered.
The success of our ministry will always depend upon that conformity to divine precept, which distinguishes our lives. The truths we proclaim cannot reach the hearts of our hearers, unless our practice is in unison with that purity, those truths involve. Should a minister of religion insist with the greatest fervency upon purity of life; should he declare that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord;" still if his own conduct is at variance with the principles he inculcates, his labour will be in vain: he will prove "a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal." The people of his charge, seeing his departure from divine precept, will take it for granted, that the truths he delivers, and the awful sanctions with which those truths are enforced, cannot be obligatory, otherwise his own conduct would be regulated by their sacred rules.
A minister of the Gospel, to be useful in his [5/6] vocation, must deny himself arty things, which he might conceive comparatively harmless, if practised by others. To render his efforts successful, he must live so abstracted from the world, as never to permit its pleasures to obtain the least ascendancy over him: he must "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." As a city set on an hill cannot be hid, his conduct will be noticed by all within the circle in which he moves: his life will be observed with a microscopic eye; and should he indulge himself in improper levity, and descend from that elevated ground on which his profession places him, his weakness would be considered as a crime: his example would lead others into vice; and his practice plead as an excuse for the most improper indulgencies.
At our ordination, we solemnly engage to give ourselves to the work of the ministry: "to pursue such studies as help to the knowledge of the same, and to fashion ourselves and our families according to the doctrine of Christ, that we may be wholesome examples to the flock committed to our charge."
By a compliance with those promises, our minds will be enriched with that information, so essential to clerical dignity and usefulness. We and our families will be preserved from the contagious effects of sin, and we shall always be prepared for the discharge either of stated or occasional duties.
The calls upon a minister of the Gospel are numerous, and frequently unexpected. Should a parishioner be indisposed, and require the pastoral [6/7] attention of the man, to whose care his eternal concerns are entrusted, how unfit would that man be to administer relief, should he be engaged in some frivolous pursuit; how totally unqualified to comfort a conscience bleeding under the conviction of past offences, or to sustain the mind of the afflicted, if summoned from a scene of amusement, dissipation or excess? But should the messenger of calamity find him in the bosom of his family, in communicating instruction to the members of his flock, or engaged in the improvement of his intellectual powers, he would meet the summons with his mind fitted for the emergency; prepared for the solemn interview, he would hasten to the house of mourning, and in the spirit of his Master, apply the remedy, and bind up the broken-hearted. By holding too much intercourse with the world, the minister of religion would deprive himself of the power of correcting evil; associations would be formed hostile to the spirit of his profession; from a consciousness of too much conformity to the practices of the day, his lips, which should utter knowledge, would be closed in silence; he would be afraid to reprove the offender, lest he should retort the admonition with, preacher heal thyself.
The church of which we are members, has always held a conspicuous place in the Christian world, in consequence of the purity of her devotional exercises; and as we have promised to conform to her usages, we cannot be said to take heed to ourselves, unless we fulfil our sacred engagements. The Liturgy forms a system of devotion, which commands the approbation of those who [7/8] differ from us in other things. It is the scriptures condensed into a smaller volume; its classic elegance gives it a claim to the attention of the scholar, and the fervent breathings of its piety warm the heart and inspire the mind with sensations, the most animating and consoling. A form of prayer is certainly warranted by the scriptures. Moses and David composed devotional exercises for the people of God; the Lord Jesus also, when requested to instruct his disciples, delivered to them a prayer intended for social worship; and while human nature continues subject to the infirmities, by which it is now distinguished, a form of prayer will always be calculated to serve the purposes of man. It prevents that pride of feeling from contaminating our devotion, which often arises from individual effort; it animates the humble suppliant in his addresses to the Almighty; it helps him in his approaches to a throne of grace. The mind of a worshipping assembly, instead of hanging upon the lips of a public teacher, waiting for his expressions, and sitting in judgment upon the doctrines those expressions contain; "instead of admiring the ornaments of the vessels, through which the waters of healing flow, bend down their heads in humility to drink of the life-giving stream;" instead of depending upon the production of the moment, they have the collective wisdom and piety of ages, to assist them. Thus blessed, their attention is fixed upon God alone, and a system of devotion secured, dignified and solemn in its expression, scriptural and agreeable to the truth.
To recommend that invaluable system to the [8/9] attention of my brethren in the ministry, would be unnecessary, as their attachment to it has been so abundantly proven, by their constant use of it in public worship. It forms an effectual barrier against errors in doctrine; no heretical principles can pollute the sanctuary, while we are surrounded by such a bulwark, and defended by such a shield. It has preserved us from those errors, which have crept into some other branches of the Christian Church, reduced the Holy Jesus to a level with the creatures he hath formed, stript him of his divinity, deprived him of his throne, and rendered the sacred scriptures a mass of contradiction. It has been delivered to us by a glorious company of martyrs, who perished at the stake, and consecrated it by their death. It is a legacy left us by our fathers, and we will reverence it; it is the same form in which our parents worshipped God; the altars at which they kneeled burned with its sacred fire, and kindled raptures in their bosoms, and as their children we will hallow it, and take heed to its preservation.
The minister of religion, whose desire it is to be useful, must cultivate a habit of private devotion. He must retire to his closet, and pray to his Father who seeth in secret, spreading his own wants, and the wants of his people before the throne of God. The duty in which we are engaged, is of a nature so important, that we need the continual assistance of the Almighty. If Paul was obliged to exclaim "who is sufficient for these things;" how ardent should be our supplications to heaven, for divine illumination. That man who trusts to the powers [9/10] of his own understanding, and derives his succour from human sources alone, will labour without success. His discourses may be distinguished for their taste and eloquence, but wanting that unction which can only be obtained from the influences of divine grace upon his own soul, will never extend those efforts beyond the ear; the minds of his hearers will never be penetrated and warmed by his productions, unless those productions have warmed his own heart. He who seldom prays for the blessing of God upon his labours, whose energies are not excited by the overwhelming consideration of the stewardship in which he has engaged, will prove to his God an unprofitable servant; and to his people, as destructive as a whirlwind to the forest; and as unproductive of benefit to their souls, as a cloud without water is to the parched earth.
Having fulfilled my first proposition, I am, secondly, to consider the principles which Timothy was to inculcate, "Take heed unto thy doctrine."
The object which the apostle always kept in view, was to humble the sinner, and exalt the Saviour; and no human being who has ever filled the place of a public teacher, could advance superior claims, to those which Paul possessed. "The gospel which was preached by me," declares the venerable saint, "is not after man, for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." In addition to the information contained in that passage, we are to remember that he had been caught up into the third heaven; been admitted into the palace of the Great Eternal: and had witnessed the glory and felicity of the church [10/11] triumphant. Taught in his repeated interviews with the Lord Jesus, the principles which he has communicated to us should command our attention, and form the subject of frequent discussion. They represent man as we find him, a sinner; and direct him for safety to the cross of Christ.
There is no point of Christian doctrine, to which the carnal heart is more opposed than the fall of man, with those consequences attendant upon his fall. To be stripped of his pretensions to moral rectitude; to be dethroned from that seat of self-exaltation, to which he conceives himself entitled; to be humbled in the dust before God, and to be indebted for his salvation to the blood of atonement, constitute truths, at which the pride of his nature revolts. To be told that he was born in sin, and that his moral powers are enervated: that the thoughts of his heart are only evil: that he who was made in the image of God has lost his innocence, and is opposed to the will of a righteous God, excites his disgust, and moves him to question the truth of holy writ.
Upon this principle the apostle treats with peculiar emphasis: and lest a single assertion should have been misconstrued, he has enforced it by repeated observations. To the Romans he remarks, "the carnal mind is enmity against God," in direct rebellion against the Almighty: opposed to the designs of mercy, trampling upon the divine precepts, and setting Omnipotence at defiance. To the Corinthians he says, "the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God: that through the corruption of his nature by the fall, and the [11/12] confirmation of that corruption by his actual transgressions, his mind is not only averse to the reception of the truth, but that the truth, though revealed by God himself, is foolishness unto him." To this view of the decrepid and perverse disposition of man, the Church bears the most unequivocal testimony, declaring in her ninth article, that "man is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit."
That the voice of scripture and of the Church upon this point is the voice of truth, must appear evident to every dispassionate observer. If man was not at enmity with God, and his precepts, the world would not be presented to our view in colours so gloomy, and in features so deformed. The powers of the human mind instead of being opposed to, would be exercised in the dissemination of virtue. Obedience to the laws of God would characterize our nature, society would be arrayed in the beauty of holiness, and the voice of gratitude and praise be heard in every dwelling. If the natural man was disposed to receive the things of the spirit of God, the preacher of righteousness would never exclaim in sorrow of heart, "Lord who hath believed our report." What attention would be manifested in divine worship: with what rapture would the sabbath be hailed: how crowded would be the altars of the blessed Jesus: how universal the spirit of devotion!
To relieve us from that state of wretchedness into which the fall hath plunged us: to reconcile the attributes of Jehovah; to support the dignity of his throne, and to enable a God of truth to be [12/13] just, and yet the justifier of the penitent; the Lord Jesus took upon him our nature; substituted himself in the offender's place; bare that punishment which man deserved, and brought in an everlasting righteousness: He "was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
To the subject of redemption through the atonement of Christ Jesus, the soul of Paul was all alive. It formed a theme, the contemplation of which excited his gratitude, and filled his mind with astonishment. With his eye fixed upon Calvary; with all his expectations fastened to the cross, he directs us to the Saviour; "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." "Christ hath obtained eternal redemption for us, being made a curse for us."
To fit us for the enjoyment of that heaven purchased by his blood, the Redeemer hath furnished us with every necessary aid. He hath left with his Church the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper; the influences of his spirit, and his preached word. In the initiatory ordinance of baptism we are brought within the pale of the covenant, receive the seal of his affection, and are blessed with the effusion of his grace. In the other the necessary supplies of his holy spirit are communicated to the believer, to strengthen and refresh his soul, on his journey to the promised land.
That the Reformers considered baptism as one of their highest privileges, is evident from the [13/14] expression of the service used at the performance of that solemnity; indeed, when we reflect upon its origin and consider the source from which it hath emanated, it would be profane to view it, but with the profoundest reverence and respect. It was instituted by the Lord Jesus, and cannot be a nullity; it was instituted by the Lord Jesus, came from the hand of the great Physician, and contains in it medicine to heal our sickness.
The Church teaches us to believe, agreeably to the promise of Christ, that he will give his holy spirit to those who ask it. We are consequently instructed to supplicate a God of mercy, that "the child now to be baptized, may receive the fulness of his grace, and ever remain in the number of his faithful children." And again, "We call upon thee for this infant, that he coming to thy holy baptism, may receive remission of sin, by spiritual regeneration." After the performance of the sacramental duty, the Church keeping in view the petitions which have been offered up in behalf of the disciple, and confiding in the fulfilment of the promised aid, calls upon us to return thanks to the Almighty, that "it hath pleased him to regenerate the infant with his holy spirit, to receive him for his own child by adoption, and to incorporate him into his holy Church."
The sentiment thus advanced by the Reformers, is sustained by testimony the most conclusive. St. Peter in language the most pointed, called upon the Jews to repent and be baptized, with an assurance that upon their compliance, they should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; and in order to inspire [14/15] them with confidence in the love of the Redeemer, and to show them that their offspring were as much embraced in the Gospel, as in the Abrahamic covenant, declared, "the promise is unto you and to your children."
An objection which has been made by those who are opposed to the principle of grace imparted in baptism, arises in my opinion from mistake. They think that if the ordinance was attended with an effusion of the spirit, the child thus baptized, when advanced to years of reflection, would alway walk in newness of life. This conclusion I cannot consider legitimate, as it would oblige us to infer, that should an adult, who had been baptized upon a confession of his faith in Christ, and truly awakened by the Holy Spirit, fall into sin, his backsliding would amount to a proof, that he had never been influenced by divine grace. Such a deduction, brethren, men of all parties would deny. If then an adult may commit transgression after having received grace, I cannot see why the same evil may not befall those who were baptized in infancy, without calling in question the principle inculcated by the church. When the church in her solemn service speaks of baptismal regeneration, she does not deny the necessity of conversion in an adult sinner. Conversion forms a distinct principle, and whoever violates the law of God, must experience its transforming power, or perish in his sin; for except we be converted, and become as little children, we cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
The sacrament of the Lord's Supper, formed [15/16] also a duty of paramount importance, in the estimation of St. Paul, a duty which he enforced with his usual ability and zeal. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ; the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ." Alive to the consideration of the duty, and sensible of its importance to the well being of the believer, he enjoined its frequent celebration upon the Corinthian church: "as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come."
This holy ordinance was always considered in the best ages of the church, as deserving of peculiar attention. The circumstances under which it was instituted give it a claim to our gratitude, and form a pledge on the part of the Lord Jesus, of the benefits arising to the faithful recipient. It is not only a commemorative, but it is a renewing ordinance. As our bodies are nourished with temporal food, so are our souls invigorated by drawing near to the cross, and eating and drinking the sacramental elements. "My body," says the Redeemer, "is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed:" our souls are strengthened and refreshed by the body and blood of Christ, precisely in the same way, as our bodies are by bread and wine. It forms the aliment of our immortal principle--aliment provided by the Lord Jesus to strengthen the wayfaring man on his journey to the eternal world.
The primitive Christians viewed it, as replete with the greatest blessings. By its frequent use [16/17] their minds were strengthened and refreshed. It prepared them for the conflicts they had to endure. It nerved their arm, it animated their hearts; and should we live to see it as duly appreciated as it was by them, and as frequently observed as it was in primitive times, that coldness and apathy which distinguishes Christians of the present day, would give place to a spirit of the most sublimated devotion; and the life and power of religion warm every heart. It is a fountain of spiritual life; let us use the medicated means. It is a well of salvation opened in the bosom of the Redeemer; let us drink of the salutary stream and live for ever. The Saviour has commanded us to do it, in remembrance of him; let us take heed to our doctrine and enforce the duty.
Confirmation forms a principle which the Apostle inculcated, and no doubt committed to Timothy for his observance. He speaks in his Epistle to the Hebrews, of the doctrine of laying on of hands, and Peter and John went down into Samaria to confirm those who had been baptised by Philip.
It has been observed by those who are opposed to confirmation, that in the Apostolic age the Holy Ghost was given by the imposition of hands, and that as we claim no such power in the present day, the ceremony should be relinquished. This reasoning, if conclusive, would operate with equal force against the ordination of men to the ministry, as it does against confirmation; as in the first ages of Christianity the preachers of the Gospel were frequently endued with supernatural powers. Notwithstanding, however, those powers are suspended, [17/18] all are of opinion that some public ordination is requisite.
The fitness of the institution, if dispassionately considered, must recommend it to the attention of the reflecting mind. There is a peculiar propriety, that those who have been baptised in their infancy should, when arrived at years of reflection, declare their attachment to the religion of the Saviour, and take their baptismal vows upon themselves.
If, brethren, we acknowledge, that fervent, effectual prayer availeth much, the juvenile professor may look up with confidence for an increase of spiritual strength; receiving, as he doth, in the performance of that duty, the prayers of the pious, and the benediction of his chief pastor. Again--
The preaching of the Apostle was distinguished by the most solemn and pointed appeals to the consciences of his auditory. His own personal case and safety were forgotten in the consideration of the responsibility of his office; and the eternal interests of those committed to his charge. He knew that the law of repentance was as obligatory upon an offender cloaked in purple and fine linen, as upon the tattered petitioner who solicited alms at his gate: that God is no respecter of persons; that the sinner must repent, believe, and be converted, or perish for ever. See him in the presence of Felix, and witness his fidelity. The judge before whose tribunal he was arraigned, was a violator of the holy law of God;--abandoned in his life; licentious in his habits. Paul thundered in his ears the denunciations of Jehovah against sin. He reasoned [18/19] of righteousness and temperance; he called into action the slumbering conscience of his judge. He awakened in his mind the most fearful apprehensions: the heart of Felix trembled in his bosom.
Confident that at the final consummation of all things, when Felix, stripped of his ermine, would be arraigned at the bar of God, and tried by him, "who is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap," brought to his view the awful consideration of the great assize. He showed him the graves opening, the dead arising, the judgment set, the books opened, the small and the great standing before the throne of God, to be judged according to the deeds done in the body. Alarmed by the awful truths so faithfully delivered, convicted of his offences, weighing himself in the balance thus strikingly presented to his view--the dignity of his station could not shield him from the conviction of his conscience;--his heart failed him for fear--his knees smote one against the other, and he trembled in the presence of his fettered prisoner.
The Gospel of Christ, if faithfully preached, is the same to-day that it was yesterday. Like Paul, let us take heed to our doctrine, and be faithful in the discharge of our duty. Commissioned by Him who is King of kings, and Lord of lords, let us declare the whole counsel of God; let us hold up to the view of rich and poor the Gospel mirror, that offenders of every description may see their own likeness, and turn from the error of their ways; let us follow them to their retirements, making religion the subject of our conversation, embracing every opportunity to bring home to their hearts [19/20] the truths of Christianity; entreating them to repent of sin, and plead for mercy at the foot of the Cross--to change their course--to become new creatures in Christ Jesus--to be converted, that they may be saved.
The Christian teacher must not only lay the axe to the root of atrocious sins, but he must insist upon an abstraction from the frivolities of the world, in those who profess the religion of Jesus Christ. Sensible of the stratagems of Satan; and conscious of our weakness, he must caution his flock to avoid temptation, to keep out of the way of evil, to be conformed to the image of the Saviour. He must enforce his counsel by the authority of scripture, and of the Church. Of scripture, by informing them that "no man can serve two masters;" "that we cannot serve God and Mammon;" "that they who are Christ's, have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Of the Church, by declaring that we are enjoined by the ecclesiastical authority, "to warn our people of an indulgence in those worldly pleasures, which draw the affections from spiritual things; that gaming, and theatrical representations in particular, are amusements, which from their licentious tendency, ought not to be practised or frequented."
That we cannot be too holy is evident, from that assertion of the Redeemer which stamps deficiency upon our utmost efforts; "after ye have done all that is commanded you, say ye are unprofitable servants." Yes, brethren, in Christ Jesus is our only dependence to be placed. He is the rock upon which we must build, or the tempest of death [20/21] and judgment will undermine the fabric we have erected, and sweep us into ruin. He is the door, and should we attempt an entrance by any other way, we shall be treated as thieves and robbers, and expelled the presence of the living God.
In vindication of this principle, the church speaks in language becoming her venerable character; so far from concealing her sentiments, she delights in proclaiming to the world, the views by which she is distinguished. The principles of her faith are written with the blood of martyrs; she takes her stand at the foot of the cross; she ventures her all upon the virtues of the atonement, and declares to the Christian world, "we are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
Having considered the doctrines which Timothy was enjoined to inculcate, we are, thirdly, to take a view of the consequences resulting from his fidelity. "In doing this, thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee."
The responsibility attached to the ministerial character, is most strongly and feelingly expressed in this declaration. Eternal considerations, the Apostle affirms, are connected with the duty in which we have engaged. The happiness or misery of the people of our charge depend in a great degree upon our fidelity. With this view of his calling, what man of feeling and piety, can enjoy contentment, unless his conscience assures him, that his best efforts have been used, to promote the eternal interests of his flock.
Should the teacher of religion, for fear of giving [21/22] offence, proclaim peace to the sinner, whose slumbers are the slumbers of death; should he, by his example, lead those into ruin, who are looking to him for instruction; should any man perish in consequence of his supineness, and from the want of timely warning, be plunged in perdition;--how awful will be the account he must render, how unbounded his guilt, how dreadful his punishment.
The most faithful clergyman in existence, the man whose labours have been the most unwearied, whose fidelity is universally acknowledged, when he sums up his exertions, when he weighs his best efforts in the balance of the sanctuary, when he considers how little he has done in the cause of God, and how many opportunities he has lost, which it was his duty to have improved, must confess his unworthiness, and fall low in the dust before his Maker. If the honest and faithful minister feels himself so unprofitable, what! gracious heaven, what will be the state of the man, who has not only neglected his duty, but has trifled away his time; who, instead of being engaged with all his powers in the work of the ministry, has slept upon his post, violated his vows, and suffered his people to remain in darkness. How will he appear in the sight of God, when informed that through his unfaithfulness, precious souls for whom Jesus died, have perished, and are lost.
Let such a view of things, however inapplicable to any now before me, stimulate us to increased fidelity. Let us be seriously engaged, in so serious a concern, as the salvation of our fellow mortals. A clergyman cannot be too vigilant; his labours [22/23] embrace eternity, and run parallel with the existence of God. Let us remember the weight of our obligations, and be much engaged in prayer for divine assistance. Let us warn our people with tears. Let us remember the influence of example, and "let our light shine before them." Let us follow Christ, "giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed," "taking heed to ourselves and to our doctrine, that we may both save ourselves, and those who hear us." Thus acting, the Almighty will mercifully accept our imperfect services, our labours will be blessed, the happiness of immortals be secured, and we shall be received, with "well done good and faithful servants, enter ye into the joy of your Lord."
To conclude: I have exhibited to your view some of the leading doctrines inculcated by St. Paul, and have shown you, that those doctrines are embraced by the Church of which we are members. Yes, in her articles and liturgy she breathes the language of the apostle, and proclaims the same truths which he delivered. Animated by that spirit which warmed the bosom of Paul, let us, my brethren in the ministry, put on the whole armour of God, and exert our united energies in the cause of the Gospel of Christ. The Church looks up to us as the guardians of her interests, and claims the fulfilment of our sacerdotal vows. Much has been done within a few years; hitherto hath the Lord helped us, and from the success with which heaven hath blessed us, we have reason to rejoice. The grain of mustard seed is becoming a great tree--its fruitful branches are extending themselves [23/24] throughout the vast continent we inhabit; its healing influences are felt from one extremity of our land to the other; the purity of our doctrines and the beauties of our liturgy, are acknowledged and respected; the tide of prejudice which we had to stem, has turned in our favour, and the smiles of the living God are upon us.
Those of us who can look back some thirty or forty years, and compare our present situation with the gloom which surrounded us at that period, cannot but feel the most lively emotion of gratitude. In many of our districts, the church of our fathers appeared to have breathed the last breath. Our harps were hung upon the willows: the friends of Zion wept over her desolations, and trembled for the ark of God.
The altars around which our fathers kneeled, were destitute of sacerdotal aid; our baptismal fonts were levelled with the dust: there was no priest to receive our little innocents into covenant with God, or to break to their disconsolate parents the bread of life. But, glory be to God, the cloud which overshadowed us has been dispelled by the sun of righteousness, and the voice of mourning has been changed into the voice of joy. Yes, the wilderness and the solitary place, cultivated by our labours, and refreshed with the dew of heaven, is blossoming like the rose; temples are erected in those regions which, till lately, formed the abode of the beasts of the forest. The Almighty is strengthening our hands, by the constant accession of zealous faithful ministers: general harmony pervades our society, and the time of refreshing hath [24/25] come from the presence of the Lord. Soon, my brethren of the ministry, soon will the active labours of some of us be terminated; soon must the curtain of life be dropped; soon will the work be finished. At the close of the last Convention--the thought must have occurred with peculiar force to some of the eldest of our body--shall we ever meet upon a similar occasion? shall we again be permitted to aid in the council of the church? Heaven hath still spared us, and while those of us whose heads are covered with the locks of age, again appear in your presence, we have to mourn with you the departure of some of the youngest of the clergy, and also to bewail the loss of one of the youngest of our bishops, Dehon, upon whom the church was leaning with confidence; in whose talents she placed the greatest reliance. Dehon has been taken from our embrace, and removed into eternity; found, however, at his post, discharging the duties of his office with unshaken fidelity; carrying to the mansion of distress and disease the consolations of religion, he was arrested by the messenger of death, and taken, in the bloom of usefulness, from a weeping diocess and afflicted family, to the bosom of his God. Let us watch, as we know not the day nor the hour, when the Son of Man cometh; and what I say unto, my brethren in the ministry, I say unto all--Watch. When I look around me, and see many of the laity, with whom I have associated for so many years, again appearing as members of this Convention, my heart is dilated with gratitude to God. It is expressive of union of sentiment, and demands our thankfulness. It is [25/26] expressive of a zeal for the church, and the interests of religion, and demands our pious acknowledgments. It is expressive of the general prosperity of our Zion, and cold must be the heart which is not penetrated with joy. My brethren, we thank you for your past services; supported by your influence, our weak hands have been strengthened, our feeble knees supported. May your labours of love meet with the divine blessing; and may the felicities of Heaven prove your eternal portion.