KING & BAIRD, PRINTERS, 607 SANSON STREET.
Philadelphia, November 20th, 1861.
REVEREND AND DEAR SIR:
At a meeting of the Managers of the "Bishop White Prayer Book Society," held last evening, at St. Luke's Church, the undersigned were instructed to communicate to you the cordial thanks of the Board, for the very instructive and effective sermon delivered by you, on Sunday evening last, in behalf of the institution they represent; and for your able advocacy of the claims of the Ritual and Liturgy of our Church.
They were also instructed to request that you will furnish them the manuscript of that excellent discourse, that it may be printed and circulated for the edification of Episcopalians and others, for the instruction of whom generally, it is so well adapted. By complying with this desire, you will much oblige the Board, the Society, and ourselves.
With much regard, we are,
Reverend and dear sir,
Your friends and brethren in Christ,
(Signed,) H. W. DUCACHET,
HENRY PAUL BECK,
JAMES M. AERTSEN.
REV. GEO. D. CUMMINS, D. D.
Baltimore, November 25th, 1861.
To Rev. H. W. Ducachet, D.D.,
Henry Paul Beck, Esq.,
James M. Aertsen, Esq.,
Committee of "Bishop White Prayer Book Society."
Your very kind favor of the 20th inst. reached me only this morning. It is exceedingly gratifying to me to learn, that the Discourse delivered before your Society, on the evening of the 17th, is, in the judgment of the Board of Managers, one likely to be productive of good, by its publication and circulation, among those within and without our own household of faith.
Though it was prepared in much haste, and amidst the pressure of heavy pastoral labors, I do not feel at liberty to withhold it from the Society. I have accordingly forwarded by the same mail the MS. to the Secretary.
I am, gentlemen,
With high regard,
Very sincerely yours,
GEO. D. CUMMINS.
"Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways, and see; and ask for the old paths, where is the good way and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls."--JEREMIAH VI. 16.
There is a beautiful and significant German Legend, that on the return of every spring-time, the emperor Charlemagne comes from his grave to bless the land over which he once held sway. That "up and down the Rhine he walks, flinging his blessing on gardens, vineyards and fields, to multiply the vintage and the harvest." And so, on the return of each successive anniversary of this society, the venerable and saintly prelate whose name it commemorates, reappears in this scene of his life-long labor, to quicken our zeal, to deepen our devotion to the principles which he taught, and to scatter his blessing on the Church which he loved and served so well.
The life-time of a generation has well nigh passed by, since he first presided over this society, organized to multiply and scatter freely the precious Book, which, in its finished form, bears the traces of his skilful hand. Three quarters of a century have elapsed, since in this city, he sat as President of the first Council of Clergy and Laity, called to make such alterations in the Liturgy of the Church of England, as would render it consistent with the American Revolution and the new Nationality. How much [29/30] the Church of which we are members is indebted, under God, to his serene wisdom, his prudent caution, his broad Christ-like charity, how deeply he impressed his image upon it, and how he, being dead, yet lives in it by an abiding influence, are facts of history, and truths confirmed by the experience of each succeeding generation. We may be pardoned then if, on an occasion like this, we feel the influence of his name, and pause to bear testimony to the work of this wise master-builder in the words of England's great Christian poet;
"To thee O Saintly White,
Patriarch of a wide-spreading family,
Remotest lands and unborn times shall turn,
Whether they would restore or build,--to Thee,
As one who rightly taught how zeal should burn,
As one who drew from out Faith's holiest urn,
The purest stream of patient Energy." [Wordsworth--Ecclesiastical Sonnets.]
In seeking a train of thought which might prove a seed of healthful growth at this time, it has not been deemed necessary to reaigue the question between the claims of pre-composed and extemporary forms of prayer in the service of the sanctuary. It may be doubted whether the question is to any great extent still an open one. For the last quarter of a century, there has been manifested a growing disposition among the largest denominations of Protestant christians towards the adoption of a Liturgical service in the public worship of God. In the German Reformed Church a liturgy has already been prepared and proposed. The Wesleyans of England have never entirely abandoned the use of the Prayer Book, while in this country, there is heard often the expression of
[30/31] the longing of many minds for a return, in this respect, to the "old paths" of their fathers. Among the Presbyterians a liturgy prevails far more extensively than is generally supposed; all the national Protestant Churches of the continent of Europe using, like the Waldenses of the Alpine valleys, a liturgical form of worship. "To this day," says a Presbyterian author, "Great Britian and America offer the sole instances of Calvinistic Churches without a Liturgy." [Eutaxia, or Presbyterian Liturgies, by Rev. C. W. Baird.]
Looking upon these favorable tendencies, a new and deeper obligation seems to rest upon us who possess this goodly heritage, to urge its claims with fresh zeal, and in the spirit of true christian love, upon our brethern, who yet share not with us in its rich blessings. Our work then on this occasion is to exhibit the adoption of the Prayer Book to be the manual of worship for all the confessions which divide the Protestant Christian Family, and thus to be a bond of union and communion in one visible Church of the living God. The theme is in harmony with the movement in the highest council of the Church, which has among its most venerable Bishops, a standing commission on Church unity, to encourage "a blessed union among all the subjects of Christ's kingdom, not only in the inner life of the living branches of the true vine, by participation in the one spirit of Christ, but in its manifestation and outworking also, in a close harmony and communion in visible Church institutions, as laborers together with God in all the work committed of God to His Church on earth." [Report of Commission on Church Unity to House of Bishops.--Journal of General Convention, 1859.] Such is the [31/32] sentiment of this Commission, and to-night we echo it and say to all who profess and call themselves christians," "stand in the way, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way and walk therein, and ye shall find rest to your souls!"
I. And first, the special fitness of the Prayer Book to occupy this position arises from the fact, that it embodies, as no other uninspired volume does, the ancient and primitive Catholic Faith of Christ's Church; not catholic in any corrupt or perverted or exclusive sense, but catholic in the sense of the unadulterated faith of scriptures, "the faith once delivered to the saints," the faith of the Church when its heart was yet warm with its first, fresh love, ere philosophy, falsely so called, had defiled the pure well-spring of sacred truth. And this old and undefiled faith the Prayer Book embodies, not merely in confessions and articles of a dogmatic theology, but what is far better, in devotional offices, in the utterances of prayer and praise, in adoration, and supplication; so that the incense of its devotion is fragrant with the most precious truth of God's holy word. This goodly robe of the Bride of Christ is wrought out of the purest gold of Divine truth--its warp and woof are alike Holy Scripture. Let us look more closely into this statement. What great, cardinal truth of the ancient, primitive faith is not interwoven into the very texture of the liturgy?
1. Is it the doctrine of the Trinity, the Tri-unity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost? The wondrous thing about the Liturgy here, is, that it brings this sublime verity close to our hearts in all its blessed practical significance, as nothing else can bring it. Says one who himself has no part in our heritage of ancient [32/33] Hymns and Doxologies, but who bears his admiring testimony from without;--"who that has been able, in some frame of holy longing after God, to clear the petty shackles of logic, and the paltry quibbles of a world-wise speculation, committing his soul up freely to the inspiring impulse of this divine mystery as it is celebrated in some grand doxology of christian worship,--as the Gloria Patri, a hymn of the ages, and framed to be continuously chanted by the long procession of times, till times are lapsed into eternity, and has been so lifted into conscious fellowship with the great celestial minds in their higher ranges of blessedness and their shining tiers of glory--who has not known it as being at once the deepest, highest, widest, most enkindling and most practical of all practical truths?" [Dr. Bushnell.--"The Christian Trinity a Practical Truth."] This is the work of the Prayer Book, to turn a theological mystery into a precious heart-truth of deepest experience. For as soon as the soul of the worshipper has prostrated itself in deepest humility and penitence before God, and received the declaration of His abundant pardon to those "who truly repent and unfeignedly believe," than it rises into the strains of loftiest adoration, in a chant which has borne to heaven the praises of saints for fifteen hundred years, or in the thrilling accents of the song first sung by angels over Bethlehem, or in the hymn of St. Ambrose cries like the seraphim heard by Isaiah, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabaoth, the Father of an Infinite Majesty, thine adorable true and only Son, also the Holy Ghost the Comforter!" Then the worshipper turns to the [33/34] ancient symbols, and makes his confession of faith before God and men, in a creed so primitive and pure as to be well called the Creed of Apostles, or in another which is the fruit of a century's conflict with false teachers over this vital truth, and chants God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God." And again there is heard the deep, earnest, plaintive pleading of the Litany, and to each adorable person of the Godhead does the prayer ascend, until it reaches its climax in, "O holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God, have mercy upon us miserable sinners!"
How can this foundation-truth ever be lost out of the Creed or the heart of a Church whose unchanging order of prayer thus enshrines it in the deepest, holiest feelings? And if one who ministers at her altars should prove recreant to this great truth, and fail to elevate. it in the teachings of the pulpit, how keen is the rebuke which he must feel, as again and again, he is constrained to cry, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost."
2. Is the doctrine of the Atonement a vital truth in the christian system? Not less full is the Prayer Book of this than of the Trinity; not in the formal and absolute terms of theological science, serving only to confuse and perplex the mind of the simple believer in Jesus, but in strong cryings and pleadings for mercy "through the satisfaction of thy dear Son Jesus Christ our Lord."
Of the two hundred prayers and collects of this Book, all with scarce an exception are offered in but one Name, are based upon one plea, "through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our adorable Redeemer." Redemption through the blood of the [34/35] Lamb, is the key note which floats through all this mingled chorus of praise and prayer. "Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us!" is the Church's ever-repeated cry in the "Gloria in Excelsis." "When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers," is its echo in the "Te Deum." "By thine agony and bloody sweat, by thy Cross and Passion, by thy precious Death and Burial," is the only hope of salvation offered to a lost and helpless sinner.
Would we know all the fulness with which the Liturgy sets forth the propitiatory sacrifice for sin in the blood of Christ? We must turn to the most sacred and precious of all the offices of this Book, the "order for the administration of the Supper of the Lord." Language seems powerless to convey its sense of the infinite preciousness of that vicarious sacrifice upon the cross "for us men and our salvation." At each notice of the celebration of this sacred feast, the minister is to remind the recipient, that it is "in remembrance of His meritorious Cross and Passion whereby alone we obtain remission of our sins, and are made partakers of the kingdom of heaven." In the exhortation preceding the office of consecration, he is to bid them, "give thanks to God for the redemption of the world by the death and passion of our Saviour Christ both God and man who did humble himself even to the death of the cross for us miserable sinners." As he kneels before the Holy Table he prays, in the name of all Christ's people, "that our sinful bodies may be made clean by His body and our souls washed through His most precious [35/36] blood." And more significant than all, he is bidden to declare on each occasion of celebrating this holy feast, that upon the cross Jesus Christ "made a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole word." Blessed testimony to a blessed truth! How sublimely does this volume witness to this "old path," this "good way" of salvation, in a day like this, when men would take from the Gospel its very life-blood, by seeking to refine away the truth of Christ's vicarious sacrifice. Let us thank God that this is an unchanging witness, whose ceaseless utterance, is, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world."
3. Is the plenary inspiration of Holy Scripture a vital truth, essential to the very being of the Faith? It is recognized and acknowledged throughout the whole frame work of our Liturgy. The Prayer-Book honors the Word of God as it is honored in no other volume on earth. "Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith;" hear what the Holy Ghost saith, is its repeated utterance, as it bids the devout worshipper listen reverently to the words of Holy Scripture. There is no doubtful, hesitating acknowledgment of the plenary inspiration of the Bible. And now, more than ever, may we rejoice in this testimony, when recreant sons of our mother Church in England, have risen up to assail this bulwark of the Christian Faith. Never may we fear the prevalence of such a form of unbelief among men using this Book, while it bids them pray, "Blessed Lord who hast caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning!" or again, "O God who hast instructed thy church with the heavenly doctrine of thy Evangelists, give us grace [36/37] that, being not like children carried away with every blast of vain doctrine, we may be established in the truth of thy Holy Gospel." [Collect for St. Mark's Day.] The infallibility of Holy Scripture, is the precious truth which the Prayer Book sinks deep in the heart of every devout worshipper in its scriptural offices.
Time forbids us to go farther into this investigation, deeply interesting as it might prove. We might take successively other vital and central truths of Christianity, truths dear to the hearts of God's people in all time, precious to all who "hold the Head even Christ," and show how each is incorporated into the very life of devotion. Thus, the truth of man's ruined nature, the office and work of the Holy Spirit in the renewal and sanctification of the human heart, justification by faith "only for the merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, a most wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort," these are everywhere inwrought into the devotions of the sanctuary in the order of this Book.
This then is our first argument. If to pray aright we need to pray "with the spirit and the understanding also," and if all the primal and essential doctrines of salvation, of "the faith once delivered to the saints," are brought to the heart as blessed realities, and made the very flame of devotion, by him who worships God in the order of the Book of Common Prayer, is it not eminently fitted to be the Liturgy of all who profess and call themselves christians, that they may thus "lift up their voices to God with one accord," as did the church in apostolic days?
 II. We advance to another position. The Prayer Book is fitted to be the Prayer Book of all Reformed Communions, because it enshrines most faithfully the true spirit of the Protestant Reformation.
The Book of Common Prayer is the fairest and most beauteous child of the Reformation. It is a blessed monument of God's goodness to His Church, in bringing her great deliverance after long ages of darkness and superstition. It is the precious casket in which are laid up the spoils of the mightiest conflict waged with the powers of darkness, since the Fathers of Christendom fell asleep, for "the truth as it is in Jesus." How wondrously can we trace the hand of God, in the agencies and instruments employed in the accomplishment of this work. First came the Reformers before the Reformation, Wicliffe and men of a like spirit sowing the seed, for a harvest to be reaped in rejoicing. Then followed in God's good time Cranmer and his Colabourers, Jewel and Latimer and Ridley, and others whose names will never die; first in 1544 only permitted to translate the prayers and Litany into the English tongue; next under the pious Edward VI., setting forth the first Book of Common Prayer, drawn up in the words of the royal decree, "according to the most sincere and pure christian religion taught by the scripture, and according to the usages of the Primitive Church." Then came the memorable Whitsunday of 1549, when for the first time the Reformed Liturgy led the worship of the whole Church of a great Realm rejoicing in the "liberty wherewith Christ had made them free." Soon indeed there returned for a short season the night of superstition, to be followed only by a more glorious day, [38/39] whose meridian brightness other generations are yet to behold.
But what a history is condensed into the few sentences just uttered! What prayers and sacrifices, what patient waiting and suffering, what stripes and imprisonments, what burnings at Smithfield and Oxford were needed to win for the Church of the Future the glorious heritage of this book! And the great principle which guided the Reformers of the English Church was that enjoined in the text; they sought to find "the old paths," the "good way" of the Church in its days of primitive purity. Isaac Walton tells us that when Sir Henry Wotton was present at a church festival in the city of Rome, and listening to strains of exquisite music, a priest thinking the time a favorable one to win him over to the unreformed faith, sent to him a note with this question, "Where was your religion to be found before Luther?" To which question Sir Henry presently underwrote, "My religion was to be found then where yours is not to be found now, in the Word of God." [Walton's Life of Sir Henry Wotton, American Edition. Walton's Lives.] "The work of Reformation at which the martyrs and confessors of England's Church labored, and which hundreds among them sealed with their blood, was not the work of constructing a new system, but of restoring the old to its lost purity. They went not forth on a waste of speculation, nor did they strive to palm upon mankind theories which they had formed in their cloisters or fashioned in their schools. They were contented to keep all that Christ and His apostles declared to the world, but they battled to the death against additions supported alone by unauthorized traditions. And if he be the builder of a new ship, who removes from the timbers of the weather-beaten vessel, the incrustation of insects which are fast eating out her strength, and sends her forth a thing of beauty and majesty, glorious as when she first trod the waves, then were the Reformers the founders of a new religion when they removed from the Church of Christ all the foul incrustations of centuries of error, and launched her forth once more upon the waters of this fallen humanity, fanned by the breezes which wafted and the glories which crowded her, when first sent forth to make her way to every home of humanity." Rather should we liken them to men who went forth to cleanse and restore some grand old cathedral, whose windows were darkened by the dust of ages, whose courts were defiled with impurity, and whose altars were polluted with strange fire; and who set themselves to the removing of the accumulated rubbish, and the letting in of the pure glad sunlight, and the filling its lofty arches with the incense of a pure and undefiled devotion.
Such was the work which bequeathed to us the Book of Common Prayer, combining "the old paths" of the Apostolic Church and "the good way" of the Great Reformation. May we not safely challenge any portion of Reformed Christendom, to produce in any confession, or symbol, or formulary of devotion, that which represents so faithfully the spirit of that great movement. Hear the grand and stately protest of the Articles of Religion, as for three hundred years they have borne their solemn witness against Transubstantiation, Purgatory, Pardons, the worshipping and [40/41] adoration of images and relics, the invocation of saints, the denial of the cup to the laity, the use of prayers in a strange tongue, the five added and spurious sacraments, the .requiring anything to be believed as necessary to salvation "which is not read in Holy Scripture nor may be proved thereby;" and then remember that the authors of this protest, gladly laid down their lives in its defence, and sealed it with their blood. We are not unmindful of the retort that may be urged, that not a few trained under all the influences of this Reformed Liturgy, and familiar with all the hallowed memories which consecrate it, have found their way back to the altars of a corrupt church, even while the language of the Prayer Book yet lingered upon their lips. But we lay hold of the very objection to strengthen our position. The perverted religiousness of the human heart which hungers for another Gospel and a sensuous worship, can find no satisfaction in the simple scriptural worship of this Book. A pure and Apostolic Church affords no abiding place for such a spirit. "They went out from us because they were not of us." They go forth to bear witness that whilst this Liturgy remains intact, it will prove a mighty breakwater to secure the Church of Christ from ever again being devastated by the flood-tide of superstition.
III. Again, we claim this high position for the Prayer Book, because it is committed to no human system of theology, but is broad enough and comprehensive enough to embrace men who differ widely in their interpretations and definitions of Scriptural truth. It is indeed a peculiar glory of this Book that it is marked [41/42] by "the elastic tenderness of a nurse who takes into account the varying temperaments and dispositions of children, and not by the rigid recklessness of an imperious taskmaster who would prostrate into a Procrustean bed all the varieties of human feeling and human conscience." It bears upon the very forefront of its doctrinal teaching, Augustine's motto; "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberality, in all things charity." They who framed the Liturgy recognized the truth that their work was not for a day but for all time, not for a nation or a denomination, but for a great Catholic Church, which in God's good time might be coextensive with the earth. Hence they were careful that its doctrinal teachings should be set forth only as the Bible sets them forth, and as they were embodied in ancient Creeds and Liturgies, purified from all the errors which were the growth of a later and darker age. They called no man Master. They followed not Augustine, nor Jerome, nor Luther, nor Calvin, but Christ and His apostles. Hence the theology of the Prayer Book is not the confession of Augsburg, nor that of the synod of Dort, nor yet the Catechism of the Westminster Assembly. It is not Lutheranism nor Wesleyanism, Calvinism nor Arminianism. But it does embrace all that is precious and vital truth in each of these human systems, yet committing itself to none; and a disciple of each of these schools may find in it that which gives "rest to his soul."
Does the Calvinist find the doctrine of Predestination and our election in Christ a doctrine full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort" to the soul of a godly person? He may find it taught in one [42/43] of the Articles of Religion of the Prayer Book. Does the Arminian hold nothing to be more vital and essential than the doctrine of the free, unlimited, unrestricted offer of salvation to all mankind? He finds it running like a silver thread through all the texture of these beauteous garments of the Bride of Christ. Does the Wesleyan regard it as the blessed privilege of a child of God "to know God as a reconciled Father, who, in Christ, has put away his sins," and given him joy and peace in believing? "Where else is such a truth so fully recognized as in those seraphic strains of devotion, which lift the soul into rapt communion with God, and cause it to realize all its portion in God, and its acceptance in the beloved?" Does the Lutheran place a high value upon the worthy partaking of the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood? Surely the warm, glowing language of our Communion-office is fitted to satisfy the deepest longings of the soul, as, "with a true penitent heart and lively faith," it receives that Holy Sacrament.
"Are not these facts," it has been well asked, evidence that the system of the Church is the system of the Bible? No one ever mistakes the meaning of the Westminster Confession, and accuses it of Arminianism, No one ever takes the confessions of Arminian Churches to be Calvinistic. If our formularies set forth distinctly one system or the other, no one could mistake their meaning. But the Church has avoided human definitions of Scripture doctrines, while she has set forth every Scripture doctrine itself in all its fulness and all its glory. This is the boast, this is the honor of the Church to which we belong. Let her willingly submit to the ignorant reproach that men [43/44] of every Creed can find in her something to favor their views, while she shares this reproach with the Word of God. It is this fact which fits her for universality. In this fact is found her power." [The Book of Common Prayer, interpreted by Rev. C. M. Butler, D. D.]
IV. Once more: in claiming for the Prayer Book that it is worthy to guide the devotions of all Reformed Churches, we claim for it what the experience of centuries has confirmed, that it is eminently adapted to unfold and nourish the spiritual life of the believer. Where is the longing of the soul which it does not satisfy? Where the craving it does not appease? Where the deepest experience of the love of God which finds not here an appropriate utterance? Where the contrition which cannot unburden itself in its penitential pleadings? What soul-sorrow finds not fitting expression? What soul-rapture may not find wings for its heavenward flight, in these anthems, worthy to be chanted by angel-voices?
Here we advance our argument to a high position indeed. We claim that the voice of three hundred years bears testimony to the truth, that the Prayer Book is eminently fitted to develop and nourish the very loftiest type of spiritual piety. We are willing to test it by its fruits in the lives of the faithful. And just as the course of a stream may be traced at a distance by the luxuriant skirt of trees lining its banks, and fed by its waters, so through all the lapse of three centuries, may we trace the windings of this river that makes glad the city of our God, by the trees of righteousness, the saints of lofty stature whose roots found rich nourishment in its living fountains. The [44/45] monks of the middle ages spent almost a lifetime in illuminating by curious skill of the pencil the Missal and the Breviary; but what an illuminated edition of the Prayer-Book would it be could we gather about it the biographies of the elect and kingly spirits, who have been nourished at its rich banquet of spiritual dainties. It will well repay us to walk with reverent step and admiring hearts along the outstretching galleries of the Church's history, and pause before the men and women whose names are dear to all God's people, and who may be justly claimed as living epistles, witnessing to the power and preciousness of the Prayer-Book. "Come and see," is our reply to him who would depreciate the Liturgy, who tells us that it is fitted to deaden spirituality, and to make formal, lifeless Christians. "Come and see" the saints of lofty stature, the men and women of fulness and ripeness of piety, the mighty wrestlers with God, the meek and holy followers of Jesus, whose names and works are now the common heritage of all Christendom, and whose lives are most truly the fruits of Prayer-Book nurture.
To what sphere of faithful service for Christ can we turn without meeting with a cloud of witnesses to this truth? Is it among those who "resisted unto blood" for the precious truth of the Gospel? What venerable and saintly forms are those which pass before us, girded for the sacrifice, chanting, "This is the day the Lord hath made; this is the way, narrow though it be, yet full of the peace of God, and leading to eternal bliss?" Need I tell you? They are Ridley and Latimer, Cranmer and Bradford, Rogers and Philpot and Taylor, going to swell the ranks of [45/46] "the noble army of martyrs." Is it among great doctors, and masters, and learned theologians, whose writings form the stately buttresses defending and upholding the noble temple of truth? Where shall we find names more august than that of the Church of England's great apologist, Jewel, whose piety was as profound as his learning, and of whose departure it has been beautifully said by his biographer, Walton, "that it was a question, whether his last ejaculations or his soul did first enter heaven?"--or the incomparable and judicious Hooker, whose remarkable meekness and dove-like simplicity and heavenly-mindedness we are apt to forget amid the bright shining of his wondrous intellect?--or the myriad-minded Jeremy Taylor, or Barrow, or Stillingfleet, or Chillingworth, colossal champions of the Reformed faith?
Is it among true-hearted and faithful and holy pastors? What beauteous pictures are those that live in our memories, of the life of the saintly Leighton, of whom Burnet said, after an intimacy of more than twenty-two years, "I never once saw him in any other temper but that which I wished to be in the last moment of my life;" of the simple-minded and lovely country parson of Bemerton, whose dying request was, "Read me the prayers of my mother, the Church of England; there are no prayers like them;" of the home and the flock of Leigh Richmond, in the beauteous Isle of Wight, where the grave of the Dairyman's Daughter, a Prayer-Book Christian, is a spot sacred to the heart of all Reformed Christendom; of the lives and labors of Tillotson and Ken, of Usher and Hall, of Simeon and Cecil, of Newton and Venn? Shall we seek among the sweet singers of the Church [46/47] for traces of its influence? Where but at these fountains did Charles Wesley and Kirke White, and Cowper and Wordsworth drink in inspiration?
Passing to the nobler sphere of a world-embracing philanthropy, whose names are enshrined so sacredly in the hearts of all good men, as those of two Prayer-Book Christians--one, whose last request was, "Lay me quietly in my grave, place a sun-dial over my breast, and let me be forgotten," and yet whose statue in St. Paul's Cathedral bears the name of John Howard; and the other, who sleeps in Westminster Abbey, by the side of the mighty and honored dead of England, greater in goodness than them all, William Wilberforce? Or, rising to a yet higher field of holy activity, what an array of missionaries of the Cross passes before us, following the steps of Martyn and Heber, who, in the order of this Book, have led the devotions of thousands of renewed souls, won to Christ from heathen darkness, and who themselves were first fed by its life-giving food!
These are fruits of Prayer-Book nurture; and surely it has borne the test of the rule of the Divine Redeemer--"a good tree bringeth forth good fruit." Have we not good reason, then, to commend it as worthy of the love and the reverence of all Christians; as fitted to be the Common Book of Prayer of all the denominations of Protestant Christendom--nay, more, to bind them together in one great Christian Family? Is this too much to hope for, to pray for, to labor for? Let us not indulge any such depressing belief. Let us strengthen the movement inaugurated in our highest Church Council, and in no spirit of arrogance, but in the spirit of true [47/48] Christian love, the spirit of Jesus, say to our brethren around us, "Stand with us, and see and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, ye shall find rest to your souls." Come and sit down with us at this rich feast of fat things. Come and share in our goodly heritage. Come back under the shelter of the old roof-tree, the goodly house of our common Fathers. "Come with us, and we will do you good, for the Lord path spoken good concerning Israel."
A word only need to be added as to the bearing of the theme upon the work of this Society. If the Prayer-Book be indeed worthy to occupy the place we have claimed for it; if it be fraught with such rich blessings to all who rightly use it, then surely our duty is to place it within the reach of all men, to scatter it freely among those who are ignorant of its priceless treasures. Let it find its way wherever it can teach a human soul how to draw near to God. Let it follow the tide-wave of civilization, as it takes its westward course over the almost trackless wastes of our mighty territories. Let its soothing words fall upon the ear of the dying child of the emigrant, as he encamps amid the loneliness of the prairie. Let it rest beneath the pillow of the sailor, as he is rocked on the bosom of the deep. Let it be hidden near the heart of the soldier, as he treads his weary round of duty amid the gloom and darkness of the night hours. Let the humblest and obscurest of Christ's servants be able to feel, how in using this Book he is one with "the Holy Church throughout the world," and can say:
"Mine is no solitary choice;
See here the seal of saints impressed;
The prayer of millions swells my voice,
The mind of ages fills my breast."