REVISED AND ALTERED,
The following sketch was written by a member of the Church of England, and is one of the papers issued by "The Association for Promoting a Revision of the Prayer-book and for Securing Purity and Simplicity in the Public worship of the Church of England." It will serve as an introduction to the observations which the writer has to make on the revision which is advocated at the present time, and the initiation and accomplishment of which by the General Convention of 1868 are respectfully urged:--
"The Book of Common Prayer was first published in the year 1549. It was drawn up by Archbishop Cranmer, and is technically described as the First Book of King Edward VI. Before this period, the Services in Cathedrals, Colleges, and Parish Churches were entirely in Latin, according to the use of Sarum, or of York, or of Canterbury, etc., as the case might be; for the arrangements and offices were not precisely the same everywhere. There was no exact uniformity in details.
"King Edward's First Book was comparatively poor in the forms for the Morning and Evening Prayers, was faulty in the Communion-office, and not sufficiently amended as regards the Occasional Services. Hence it was scarcely published before a revision was called for. This. was speedily executed,. and given to the people in 1552, and has since been known as Edward's Second Boon. This was a great improvement upon the First Book, the Daily Prayers of which commenced with the Lord's Prayer where it now occurs the second time in our present Liturgy. It ended with what is now the Third Collect. In the Book of 1552, the Sentences, Exhortation, General [3/4] Confession, Absolution, and Lord's Prayer were prefixed to Morning and Evening Prayers. The words altar and mass were struck out, as were the practices of making the sign of the cross over the elements of bread and wine, mixing water with the wine, anointing the sick with chrism, reserving portions of the consecrated symbols for use elsewhere, the custom of private masses, auricular confession, exorcism in baptism, prayers for the dead, and the eucharist at funerals,--the very things which the Romanizing party in the Church of England are now endeavoring to bring back. At the same period (1552), a rubric was added to the Communion office against the doctrine of the real presence of Christ corporally in the symbols of bread and wine, and the term 'honest table' was positively adopted, instead of 'altar,' which was distinctly put aside, and never occurs in any rubric of our present Book. The words for administering the elements,--'The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life,' and 'The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve,' etc., were removed, and replaced: by 'Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on Him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving,' and 'Drink this in remembrance that Christ's blood was shed for thee, and be thankful." This revision, for many reasons, was most important, besides that the Second Book was immensely more Scriptural and Protestant than the First, while it assumed substantially the character it has held ever since. The third revision was in 1559-62, in the reign of Elizabeth, when some changes were made with the view of conciliating High Churchmen and Romanists, and especially the restoration in the Communion-office of the formula, 'The body of,' etc., and 'The blood' of,' etc., but without rejecting what had replaced those forms in the Book of 1552, so as to comprehend both Papists and Puritans, if it were possible; and for a season they did commune together in the Parish Churches. In Elizabeth's Book, the clause in the Litany, 'From the tyranny of the Bishop of Rome, and all his detestable enormities, Good Lord, deliver us,' was struck out,--an unavoidable amendment, if the Romanists were to be brought to the English prayers. For a similar reason the declaration against the corporal presence, already mentioned, was removed. The fourth revision dates in 1604, under James I, when the changes were few and unimportant, though somewhat in the High Church direction. The second part of the Catechism was then inserted. The last revision was in 1662, in connection with the restoration of Charles II, and his stringent Act of Uniformity. Six hundred alterations were then made, including a large amount of minutiae. Happily the declaration against the corporal presence was restored, [4/5] though so worded that the real presence of Christ in or with the elements is not ignored, though the bodily presence is denied. Our present Romanizers are making capital out of this. The Book was undoubtedly enriched by several new prayers and forms then drawn up, especially that comprehensive Prayer for all States and Conditions of Men, by Bishop Gunning, and that beautiful General Thanksgiving, by the Puritan Bishop Reynolds. On the other hand, the indicative form of absolution, 'By the authority of Christ committed unto me, I absolve thee,' etc., was suffered to remain in the Visitation of the Sick, nor were those words, of the age of Pope Hildebrand, removed from the formula for ordaining a priest, 'Whose sins thou dost forgive they are forgiven, and whose sins thou dost retain they are retained,'--the root of sacerdotalism, as the rubric about ornaments and vestments, still found at the end of the Tables, has proved the basis for church-millinery, and an excuse for copes, chasubles, crosses, altar-lights, and incense, in our day. The Burial Service was left encumbered by the 'sure and certain hope,' and 'the hearty thanks' remained; while more harm was done by inserting the word unbaptized in the rubric preceding the Burial Service, thus excluding thousands of infants from a Christian interment, and by adding to the rubrics at the end of the Baptismal Service, 'that an infant dying baptized is undoubtedly saved.'
"Much more might be said, but this must suffice for so brief a history, and especially as room must be kept for a few words on the Sources of the Book of Common Prayer, which are manifold and various, though chiefly of great antiquity. It is neither an exact translation of the Romish Missal nor the original composition of the Reformers. The fountain-head is threefold,--exclusive of those portions, such as the Psalms, the Gospels, and Epistles, etc., which have been drawn directly from Holy Writ,--Primitive, Reformational, and belonging to the era of Charles II,--Caroline, we might say.
"I. Great portions of the Daily Service and the Collects pertain to the earliest ages of Christianity. None of them are later than the sixth century; and most of them are found in the Sacramentaries of Leo, Gelasius, and Gregory the Great. The hymn, called popularly the Te Deum, is very ancient. It dates certainly from the fifth, perhaps from the fourth, century. So do the Gloria in Excelsis and the Ter Sanctus, in the communion-office. So that we are still using collects and hymns which were known to the Church 1400 years ago, and precisely the same, except that we have purified them from the incrustations of the dark ages and some Romish plaster.
"2. Much of the Prayer-book, as we now have it, was drawn up by [5/6] the Reformers; by Cranmer, Ridley, Peter Martyr, Bucer, and other great and good men, who, doubtless, would have gone further had they lived longer. With the light which we now enjoy they would scarcely have written the Baptismal Service as we have it,--and, alas! find it a perpetual stumbling-block and cause of controversy and dispute. To them we are indebted for some twenty of the Collects, as well as for the. opening portion of Morning and Evening Prayer, as has been mentioned before. The Articles were also drawn up by the divines of 1552, and were ratified again and again in 1562 and 1571.
"3. A considerable portion of the Book, as it now is, was drawn up by the Churchmen of the Caroline era,--Sheldon and his helpers. These portions have been chiefly pointed out already, and it is not needful to recapitulate.
"A sixth revision, could it be legally obtained and wisely managed, would clear away the stumbling-blocks which have hitherto been suffered to remain, would avoid repetitions, clear up ambiguities, banish obsolete phrases, expurgate the Calendars, re-arrange the Psalms, and better adjust the Lessons; while adding some extra Short Services which are much wanted. It might verify, at last, the words of Archbishop Seeker, who, speaking in his Latin Sermon of the Anglican Liturgy, did not hesitate to say,--'Ornatior quidem, accuratior, plenior, brevior, potest ea fieri, et debet.' Yes, it can and ought to be made more elegant, more correct, and, at the same time, fuller, yet more concise. May so great a boon be realized ere long!"
The sixth revision which is mentioned in the preceding sketch may be said to have been made when the American Prayer-book, as we now have it, was established as the order of worship in our Church. Many of the things specified as remaining in the English Prayer-book, and which are now felt by English Episcopalians to be unscriptural and dangerous, have been removed. But some of a kind equally untenable when compared with Scripture, and which are the cause of offense to the conscience, and of inconsistency in the work of the ministry, and which are stumbling-blocks in the way of those contemplating union with our Church, still remain, and others have been added.
A. revision, therefore, in our case would be the seventh in order, reference being had to all that have preceded. It is confidently, believed that a review and modification of the disputed, controverted, and, disturbing expressions of the Prayer-book would promote the peace of the Episcopal Church, and commend it to many Christians not now within her pale.
THINGS TO BE REVISED. THE BAPTISMAL SERVICE AND THE CATECHISM.
The things in the Prayer-book which need revision are few, but they are leading and important. The key is contained in the utterances of the Articles, Catechism, and ministration of Baptism. Every thing which is said in the Articles in the way of defining Baptism, its nature, design, and consequences, refers to adults only. The lines relating to infants are at the end of the 27th Article, and are as follows: "The baptism of young children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ."
The same Article says of Baptism--it is "a sign of Regeneration or New Birth, whereby as by an instrument, they, that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church, the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed. Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer to God."
It is plain and universally admitted that the two parts are the sign and the things signified. The Article plainly teaches that the things signified are all experienced, realized, enjoyed before the sign is used. A believing, penitent, pardoned and adopted son of God, made such by the Holy Ghost, presents himself to have the sign applied to his person. It is as if by the efficacious power of the Spirit through the truth, a man, had been constrained to join the Christian army, and is duly registered and examined and accepted, but he now in the outward ordinance puts on the uniform. That is an evidence to the world that he has enlisted. Putting on the trappings did not enlist him, but the badges or clothing identify him, remind himself of his position and duty, and strengthen and confirm his resolution.
Or thus, the adoption of the son, according to covenant arrangements, has been made, and in due time upon his appearance in this time-state it is made known to him by the appointed Messenger [7/8] proceeding from the Father and the Son. The Spirit has called him and certified to him by heart-felt experience, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee." "Because thou art a son, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your heart, whereby you cry, Abba, Father." "And if a son, then an heir, heir of God, and joint heir with Christ unto an eternal inheritance, reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation."
But in the sacrament of Baptism the instrument containing the promises is visibly sealed.
God had signed the document in His Trinity of persons: the adopted son had signed it, the Holy Spirit holding his hand and enabling him to trace the letters with the blood of Christ: nothing remained but to affix the court-seal and lay up the instrument for eternal preservation and continual reference, when the title is disputed by the envious, malicious, jealous enemies of the adopted son, or when doubted by his own cold, carnal, and distracted mind. Whatever has been effected by and for, or in him, was not done in or by or at the time of the application of the seal.
Now the Catechism refers to those baptized in infancy only, or to those who have not come to years of discretion to answer for themselves, and the answer to the question, "who gave you this name," is:--
"MY SPONSORS IN BAPTISM, WHEREIN I WAS MADE A MEMBER OF CHRIST, THE CHILD OF GOD, AND AN INHERITOR OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN."
In this answer lies the ambiguity, and therein are contained the expressions which are inconsistent with the Articles, and which do not set forth the Scriptural teachings respecting the work of the Spirit in the heart.
What is expected in the administration of the ordinance is found in the prayer used at the time of administration. The petition is that the baptized child may "receive the remission of sin by spiritual regeneration."
The ambiguity is that in the article he is "grafted into the Church;" in the answer he is "made a member of Christ." In the article the recipient of Baptism is shown to be an adopted child of God before he is admitted to the ordinance; in the answer he is said to be "made a child of God" in Baptism. In the article the right to and the certain enjoyment of the inheritance is sealed; in the answer the baptized is "made an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven" in Baptism.
Evangelical men want the service and answer revised and made plain, unambiguous, and such as will be consistent with the Articles [8/9] and the Scriptures. It is not enough that they can be explained and contorted, and by ingenuity of learned men made to speak the same thing. We want them so clear that he who occupies the room of the unlearned cannot fail to apprehend them, and so that he who occupies the room of the learned cannot, as many now do, pervert them and use them to teach delusion and God-dishonoring doctrines.
"Baptism, wherein, I was made a member of Christ," etc. But Baptism is double, an inward work of which the visible ordinance is the representation. By which were you made a member of Christ? By which were you regenerated, by the inward, Divine work of new creation, or by the washing by water? The serious Sacramentarian says, "of course by the inward work of the Spirit; but the inward work was the result of the outward rite, or was performed at the time the water was applied in the mystic name of the Trinity. They are always united, and regeneration is not effected by any other means."
The Bible, however, teaches that this is not the correct representation of the Holy Spirit's work, entitled regeneration, or the new birth. Scripture testifies in many instances that, the spiritual regeneration was effected, and showed its blessed results before any rite symbolizing, or teaching, or representing it, was instituted. This was the case with Abraham, who was regenerated, justified and mighty in faith before circumcision was instituted. It was shown by the Apostles of our Lord (except Judas) who were regenerated, justified, and called to be Apostles, and who never, as far as we have any evidence, ever received any other baptism than that of John. For who baptized them? "Jesus Himself baptized not;" they could not baptize each other if the theory of Sacramentarians is true. Yet they, themselves un-baptized, went forth and applied the ordinance to all who were admitted into the Church. St. Paul was baptized by Ananias, who is not called a minister, but only a certain man, a lay member of the Church.
Cornelius was regenerated, justified and accepted; he was a spiritual and living member of Christ, and received the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, and all before he was baptized. The twelve disciples whom St. Paul found at Ephesus, had only received. the Baptism of John; yet was that deemed sufficient, and the Apostle simply laid hands on them to signify the imparting of miraculous powers. And if in that passage in Acts xix, 1-7 men and de in the 4th and 5th verses show that the words of John the Baptist are repeated by St. Paul, and that oi laoi is the noun understood with which akousanteV agrees, then it proves that John's Baptism was Christian Baptism, and hence need not be repeated.
An eminent minister of our Church in England said, and the record is found in his works, "I well remember to have heard it [9/10] said concerning a prelate of the highest rank in the establishment, who, in the close of his life expressed 'himself on this subject (regeneration) in these very solemn words: 'I have read (said he) much' on the doctrine of regeneration, and I have heard much upon it; I should hope it is, after all, but a mere figure of speech; but it be a real truth, I can only say that I know nothing of it in my own experience.'" What a dreadful confession this for a man in his "dying hours!"
We fear that too many at the present time, by their teachings, are mystifying the plain doctrine of the Scriptures, and in despair of experiencing what the Bible plainly asserts to be implied in regeneration, they lower the meaning of the term to ecclesiasticism, or change of state, or something which the carnal mind can apprehend and by its own exertion experience. Scriptural views of Regeneration must carry with them correct ideas of the sacrament of Baptism. The spiritual statements of that doctrine are well set forth by the distinguished and Evangelical minister above quoted. He says:--
"The Holy Scriptures, with one voice, declare, that man by the fall of Adam, lost all apprehension of the Divine nature; he became virtually dead in trespasses and sins; so that the recovery from hence could Only be effected by the quickening influences of the Holy Ghost. Hence every son and daughter of Adam is born, as to spiritual faculties, in a state of spiritual death, and is as incapable, until an act of regeneration hath passed in quickening to a new and spiritual life, of any act of spiritual apprehension, as a dead body is to any act of animal life.
"Scripture describes the different degrees of death in a clear and distinct manner. The death of the body is the separation of soul and body, so that the soul which is the life of the body, if fled, leaves the body lifeless, and without any longer principle of consciousness. 'The body (saith an apostle) without the spirit is dead' (James ii, 26).
"Spiritual death is the death of sin, by reason of the want of the quickening Spirit of God in the soul; so that as Christ is the life of the soul, every Christ-less soul is a dead soul. Eternal death is the separation both of soul and body from God forever; and this is the state of the unreclaimed and unregenerate wicked.
"Now, then, as in the first instance, while the soul actuates the body, that body is alive, but without the soul so actuating, the body would be dead; so in the second, unless Christ, who is the life of the soul, actuates the soul by regeneration, that soul continues dead as by original transgression was induced. And in the third, if living and dying without the blessed influence of regeneration, that soul [10/11] and body must remain in a state of eternal death and separation from God forever.
"Now, from this Scriptural statement of spiritual death, it will be easy to gather what is meant and implied by the doctrine of regeneration. It is, to all intents and purposes, in the spiritual faculties creating a new life, a new birth, a new nature; hence the Scriptures describe the recovery from sin under the strongest expressions. 'You (saith the apostles speaking to the regenerated Ephesians, chap. ii, I) hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.' So again, ver. 5, 'Even when we were dead in sins, hath he quickened us together with Christ.' So again--'If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature' (2 Con v, 17). And hence the apostle elsewhere saith that our recovery to a state of grace, and the new life, is 'not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Lord' (Titus iii, 5, 6). I only add an humble prayer to God to grant to all His renewed members the sweetest testimony in their own experience to this most blessed truth, that they may know that they are born again, 'not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of our God, which liveth and abideth forever'" (1Peter i, 23).
Such being the nature of spiritual regeneration, we do not believe that great work is effected in the case of infants at the baptism of their bodies by water. The use of the expression in, the answer of the Catechism, and the prayer that it may be experienced in that ordinance, the thanksgiving that it was experienced, and the ever-after taking for grained that all that is included in or meant by regeneration was received and experienced in that ordinance, are things to which serious and insurmountable objection is felt.
They lead to delusion and self-deception. They are quieting, paralyzing, deadening to unregenerated souls, rendering them "twice dead." They are dead in their natural state, and by the erroneous teaching that they have experienced the new birth, they are entombed, petrified, and beyond everything but the Almighty power of God. The churchmanship, the round of rites and practices and ordinances, makes them like the dead insect encased in the beauteous and clear amber. Valuable as a curiosity, beautiful as an ornament, but dead, and we fear never brought to life and made to burst the golden, transparent case of human invention, perversion, and delusion. Alter these expressions; make them state clearly what is done by the Baptism that we see administered, and all and only what is done by it. Let the answer read:--
"MY SPONSORS IN BAPTISM, WHEREIN I WAS MADE A MEMBER OF THE VISIBLE CHURCH OF CHRIST."
INFLUENCE OF THE BAPTISMAL SERVICE AND CATECHISM ON THE OTHER OFFICES.--THE VISITATION OF THE SICK.
The Baptismal service being at the foundation of the ritual and Liturgy of our Church, we find all other part; of the ecclesiastical system built upon it, and in more or less harmony of design. We have seen that in the second answer of the Catechism children are taught as soon as they can repeat the words "that in baptism they were made children of God, members of Christ, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven." On being introduced to the baptismal service they hear that the minister, sponsors and people devoutly give hearty thanks that it pleased God to regenerate them. They were "born again," removed from a state of nature, signed, sealed and endowed with the name, title and privileges of the sons of God. They learn that all this was done for them in their unconscious infancy, and that whatever is implied in regeneration they obtained it in that ordinance. If they do not break away early in life, either owing to loss of parents and guardians, or to their own wayward disposition, but come to public worship, they do not find in the public utterances of the Liturgy the least hint that there is any difference among the worshipers as to their spiritual state. All are addressed as regenerated persons. It is only when a clear, discriminating sermon is preached that the hearers are made to know that there is any doubt in the case of any, and that although baptized they were not born again, but must have other evidence of the fact besides the parish register, and the vows, pledges and promises of the sponsors.
If he is taken sick, and the sickness appears to be unto death, and the minister is sent for, the service appointed takes for granted that he is a regenerated person. There is not a hint given that the work of the Holy Spirit regenerating him, imparting spiritual life, and creating him anew in Christ Jesus, is necessary. All the exhortations and the prayers refer to patience, resignation, repentance and faith. The sum of the petitions is, "renew in him whatsoever hath been decayed by the fraud and malice of the devil or by his own carnal will and frailness." A new creation, an entire removal from the state of nature, a living union of a soul till that time dead in sins; none of this. It is only the reviving, the renewing, the repairing of what has some life yet left, some spiritual nature, some living though sickly life and growth. He is a "member of Christ," though a diseased, paralyzed, distorted limb.
 In the Visitation of Prisoners we have the very same ideas and teaching. The worst criminals, if they are baptized in infancy (and the theory of the service is that every soul in the nation has been thus baptized), are addressed in the same language, essentially, as would be spoken to a saint and martyr.
A minister of the Church of England who for many years has filled the office of a chaplain to prisons and reformatories, has written an appeal to the Bishop of Winchester, in which he shows from long observation and the testimony of prisoners, that the expressions we are considering in the Baptismal service have a most demoralizing effect on the minds of criminals. The ex-chaplain says to the Bishop:--
"Does not the Christian teaching of your ministry inculcate to children the necessity of having a new birth and a new heart long after baptism?
"Does this mean a new heart after being made a child of God; being born again, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven? If this is so for infants growing up, why not for criminals whom we wish may grow out of sin, having already a regenerate and new heart and changed spirit? Ought this to be the doctrine taught to infants growing up, or criminals to be started into fresh life; ought this to be held out in addition to what is said in the Baptismal Service as a repetition, or, originally to commence on a ground of conversion? If originally, the Baptismal Service can go but for little in the case. Why use such a service? If in sequel, the Baptismal Service should not be quite so positive and explicit, if something so originally explicit is to follow it.
"I am afraid that half the ruin of families, half the ill success of life, the throwing away of good opportunities and the waste of property, time, and talents in the instances of those who have so largely contributed to swell the list of criminals, and fill convict prisons and hulks, has been this one grand delusion of taking it for granted that man has a right to assume, if he has been baptized and so made according to his idea a Christian, he will be found somewhere about near to doing well somehow or other, and that finally he will be somehow not far from being safe in heaven.
"I examined a very intelligent prisoner who was deaf and dumb, and who had been taught in a Deaf and Dumb Asylum; if 'he thought he was a Christian.' I put this question to him, as well as to many others, to elicit this very point as to taking it for granted that all is done that is required to be, done in baptism. His answer written down was, 'I have been baptized.' I once attended a full meeting of the Clergy of the Winchester Deanery to discuss this general question how far in Baptism the effects could be reckoned upon as fully identified in the service, or in other words the extent [13/14] of 'Baptismal Regeneration,' and a Vicar who may be reckoned as a consistent advocate of this doctrine, stated broadly in reply to some questions that were most forcibly urged upon, him, 'that he could not, by any means separate regeneration from the sprinkling of Water in Baptism.' This, if true, must account for the fact that every one who is sprinkled as an infant with Water in Baptism, is 'born again,' on the mere administration of the ordinance; the truth, faith, holiness or principles of approach of the parties presenting the infant, not being in the least degree taken into consideration. I call upon your Lordship either to endorse this doctrine of an 'opus operatum,' or to amend the expressions in the Liturgy so as to be more consistent with the principles of the Clergy who are one with those of your Lordship and your Ministry. I firmly believe that this simple view derived from these overstated and unabating terms of the Liturgy, goes far to lay the foundation of that want of self-knowledge and self inquiry which has tended so materially to fill the prisons with criminals, to say nothing of the dark and unenlightened state of those Clergy who have entertained, propagated and defended doctrines similar to these positions, but which are so delusive and erroneous."
In this country the same experience, has been obtained by ministers in their discharge of parochial visitation. They are called in multitudes of cases to visit the dying, or those supposed to be near their end. But few comparatively have been baptized in our Church, and many have never been baptized in any Church. If they have been baptized any where, they generally state the fact and rely upon it to some extent. The soul of the trembling, carnal man confronting death and eternity clings to the Baptism administered by authority as he thinks and esteems, and hopes the great thing was effected then. He is conscious that he has not lived up to the vows made in his name, perhaps has little idea of what they were, but he hopes that the errors of the past may be forgiven, and that the new birth which then occurred, may now be supplemented by a sudden and vigorous growth, assisted by the care and stimulation of the-minister, and ripened by the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. The chief desire is to have this administered, and the subtle belief that grace is conveyed by it is almost universal.
It is difficult, it is painful, it is deemed cruel, unwise and useless to grapple with the carnal, dead soul, and utterly sweep away vain confidence in the flesh. To deny totally the claim of Regeneration, to prove by his life there has never been the least evidence of it. That his heart is not right in the sight of God, and never has been for one moment in any other state than that of nature, of sin, of death. That he must be born again by the Spirit of God, and made a new creature in Christ Jesus. And it is rarely [14/15] done, or if the truth is delivered, the slightest and most confused and doubtful evidences are taken and hopefully characterized as the genuine work of the Almighty Spirit. There is very little evidence of true spiritual life in many cases, and the merest and most feeble motion of the new-born soul, then and there brought into existence, emitting its feeble wail, and gasping its first and last breath of spiritual life in this world is all we have to encourage hope in his case: entering heaven, if saved and snatched from the edge of the pit, with the weakness, the ignorance, the blankness of the soul that really died in infancy.
Positively there is less difficulty in approaching and dealing with the sinner who has no Church Baptismal record to present, no family register to consult, no memory or tradition of Baptism to recall. In his ease there is no hindrance to remove, no other false ground of confidence to remove, than that general self-reliance which is natural and unavoidable by the unrenewed heart. The poor soul is sinking, and we have only to cast to him the Word of God, the truth of Christ's person and righteousness, leaving to the Spirit of God to quicken his cramped, paralyzed hands so that he may by heaven-inspired faith lay hold of Christ and enjoy the assurance and comfort of salvation. Even this is not often clearly and hopefully done. We cannot distinguish between the convulsive grasp of nature and the true hold of a new-born soul. Our hopes are after all placed on the everlasting Arm beneath the soul, and the Almighty grasp with which the Lord may be holding him. But in the other cases where the drowning man relies on his Baptism, and we plainly see it is a false hope, we have to unwind the arms from the stone font, the heavy weight of outward carnal ordinances and human arrangements to which he is adhering, and which must carry him more speedily to the bottom. The work is double, the difficulty is much increased, and in regard to the use of means, more has to be undone than is to be positively applied.
Now we are not saying that the baptism of infants is a hindrance to their regeneration in after life. We do not say it is not to be retained in the Church as agreeable to the institution of Christ. But we do say that the expressions which are used in the human administration of the ordinance, and the interpretation which is generally put upon them are, humanly speaking, hindrances to the new birth and regeneration. The doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration taught in them, or put into them, or with difficulty explained out of them, is unscriptural, erroneous and vain, is deceptive and a fatal snare. It is so specious, so grateful to the natural heart, so pleasing to the flesh, so easy of comprehension to the natural understanding, that a soul entangled therein can only be delivered by a miracle of Divine grace. Therefore, we would like to have those expressions [15/16] removed, and the whole false system of Sacramental grace built upon them tumbled into ruins.
We have seen in the review of the Baptismal service, and the collocation of the expressions used in the Catechism, that there is some ground for the claim that the opus operatum was not entirely eradicated from our forms of worship and administration of the sacraments at the time the Liturgy was compiled. The close arrangements of the prayer that the child might receive remission of sins by spiritual regeneration, and the thanksgiving most humble and hearty, that it bath pleased God to regenerate the infant, then and there, by the Holy Spirit, is used by the advocates of opus operatum with great effect. The result is seen in the success which has attended the argumentation based on the expressions and the inculcation of such erroneous doctrines by the unexplained administration of the ordinance, of Baptism.
In the forms of ordination we find the ordaining Bishop addressed, REVEREND FATHER IN GOD. This is a title which has long been given to Bishops, and was one of those corruptions which came in with other departures from the simplicity of the Gospel, and from the plain teachings and clear precepts of Christ.
In St. Matthew, xxiii, 8--11, it is written:--"But be ye not called Rabbi, for one is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you, shall be your servant."
By these expressions our. Lord does not mean to enjoin the disuse of all names and titles of natural and civil distinction, but only to reject such as imply or assign an authoritative power over men's consciences, in matters of faith and obedience. The form of expression shows that his ministers were not only not to assume such honors and titles as would lead people to entertain too high an opinion of them, and take off their minds from entire dependence on God the Father, and on Christ, and on the Spirit, but they were not to receive or suffer such titles to be given to them. It was usual in our Saviour's day to call the Rabbis, ABBA, father, and our Lord specially and clearly forbids it. We find in Rom. viii, 15, that "Abba, Father," is the peculiar and unshared name of God. In 1 Cor. iv, 15, St. Paul says to the converts, "In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel." This clearly refers to his having been the instrument employed by the Holy Spirit to regenerate them, and that work was effected solely by the preaching of the [16/17] Gospel, for he rarely baptized any. In this sense every one who has been instrumental in the regeneration of a soul dead in sin is entitled, to claim the title of spiritual father in the Gospel. But there is no scriptural warrant for assigning it to any official position. In the only sense in which it is authorized by apostolic example, it is entirely inapplicable to Bishops. Hence, seeing the title "FATHER IN GOD," is not according to the letter of Scripture, and is contrary to its spirit, as well as unsanctioned by apostolic usage, it ought to be withheld from our Bishops.
THE ORDINATION SERVICE.
Those parts of the Liturgy which treat of the ministry and of ordination need revision, adjustment, and harmonizing. The strength of the Romish movement in our Church may be said to lie in the ordination service.
When the young student, kneeling before the Bishop, hears the solemn words--"Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee, by the imposition of our hands; whose sins thou dost forgive they are forgiven, and whose sins thou dost retain they are retained,"--there is one great source of Romanism in the Church.
For though men of learning contend the word Priest is only an abbreviation of Presbyter, yet, considering the connection in which it is used, the idea of "Sacerdos," or sacrificer, is facile, and the argument is, which view of the ministry is most directly consistent with the rest of the Liturgy, and which requires the most explanation?
It is plain, and proved over and over again, that the application of the name of "priest" to a minister of the Gospel, in a sacrificial sense, in a mediatorial sense, in any sense other than that in which any disciple may claim it, is unscriptural and sinful. Therefore, the expressions in the Prayer-book should be made to conform with that truth, and the word priest, as applied to the minister of Christ, eliminated, expunged from the services. "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood," i. e., ye, all the true disciples and redeemed people of God. Not the slightest hint of limitation to ministers. The only sacrifices they offer are those of praise and thanksgiving," "the calves of their lips," "themselves," "their bodies and souls," all is figurative and universally applicable to those who are called and manifested to be the people of God. Any expression of the Liturgy or offices, therefore, which militates against these truths, is a blemish, a dangerous term, however [17/18 ] ingenious or plausible; the expression, we think, should be removed.
THE DECLARATION OF ABSOLUTION.--PRIESTLY CLAIMS AND PRETENSIONS.
Another thing which needs revision and such an alteration or explanation as will make all in harmony with the truth of the New Testament, is "the declaration of absolution." It cannot be doubted that many clergymen in England and in our Church, believe and teach that absolution, or the forgiveness of sins, is not only declared, but imparted, conveyed, ratified and confirmed at the time of such ministerial reading of that passage in the service. Many thus conscientiously understand it, and consciously and solemnly use it with the belief that they are dispensing and receiving pardons in the Lord's name.
The Protestant and Evangelical minister of our Church takes the Scripture embodied in the declaration which some made in our Lord's hearing, "who can forgive sins but God only," and admits and claims from His actions and miracle, that their sentiment was just, and therefore, that He, who in their presence and hearing forgave sins, was very God. The Scriptural collect framed in accordance with the truth, is used on Ash Wednesday, in which are found the words "to thee only it appertaineth to forgive sins." Laying this as the foundation, he claims that the rest of the Prayer-book is and must be in harmony with it--the superstructure is not wider than the foundation. It is not the prerogative of any minister to forgive sins.
When he comes to the "absolution" he has only one word in the rubric or direction preceding the words he uses, on which he' can stand and contend against the claim of those who think and teach that they Have authority to convey pardon of sins: That word is "The declaration;" it is not "the absolution," but "the declaration of absolution." From this he argues the distinction is plainly drawn between forgiving sins, and declaring that God will forgive them.
There are two forms of the declaration, and either is authorized to be used. The practice of some is always to use the second. Of others always to use the first. Of some to use both, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The motives are as various us the practice. Some use the short one to avoid prolonging the service, the second being just half as long as the first. Others think the liability to abuse this part of the service to the self-deceiving of [18/19] the soul, and to the belief that ministers do forgive sins, is greater in the use of the first form, and therefore do not use it. For the same reason some Evangelical ministers prefer the first. They think the statement of the ground of the proceeding at the beginning, and the exhortation to himself as well as to those to whom he speaks at the end, make the form to be safer and less offensive to Christ and to Christian feeling than is the second. They contend that the whole pith of the first form lies in the words found in the center, "He pardoneth and absolveth all those who truly repent and unfeignedly believe His holy Gospel." Not through me, not by my authority, or mediation, but when and as it pleaseth Him by His Spirit working in the heart.
The "priestly" theory of High-Churchmen is, that Christ gave to Peter and to the rest of His Apostles the power to bind and to loose, to remit and retain sins. That they exercised this power and transmitted it to their successors. They interpret this power, not as Scriptural Protestants always do, and always have done--to mean that Christ by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost authorized them to declare what things were sins, and what offenses were pardonable, and what had no forgiveness.
But they contend for a plenary and authoritative delegation to remit or to refuse to forgive the sins of men. They emphasize and make much of the words in the longer Declaration of Absolution, "God hath given power and commandment to his ministers, to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins;" an expression which we think farfetched, and for which there is no Scripture warrant. They believe that ministers Episcopally ordained are the only successors of the Apostles who have the right, privilege and authority to do the same now, and that they do it now, and are bound to do it.
Here are the two widely diverging and radically opposed theories or beliefs. Both professedly based on the Scriptures, yet mutually destructive. It is plain, as was said at the outset, that the Prayer-book disclaims the priestly prerogative which so many claim for our ministers, while the insertion of the word "declaration" is a protest against the Roman form, which has no such word in it. The intentional omission of the form allowed in the English Prayer-book, and found in the "Visitation of the Sick," also is claimed to show the meaning of our Liturgical teaching.
Concerning these two theories, the question is, with which does the language of the absolution service and the rubrical directions best agree? One portion of our clergy and laity say the Sacerdotal view is correct, and all can and must be squared with that. The other [19/20] portion says the anti-priestly view is correct, and everything can and must be interpreted accordingly.
Look at the practice. The Deacon is not allowed to use it, because he is not "a priest" or presbyter. But he can do everything else which a Gospel minister may do. He can read all the service except "the absolution" and the "Benediction;" may preach and baptize infants in the absence of the "priest," and may assist him in the communion--in all parts of it--except the prayer of consecration.
When a "deacon" is ordained, the form is, "Take thou authority to execute the office of a Deacon in the Church of God committed unto thee." But when he is ordained "priest," the form is, "Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven, and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained.
In the alternate form which is now seldom used, and, we think, only by our Evangelical Bishops, these italicized words are omitted.
So here we see the minister at his second ordination is invested with rights and privileges not granted to the deacon. He argues if these priestly words are used, surely I have the right to interpret them in accordance with the well-known and straight-forward meaning of them. The burden of proof that the words do not teach that I am to forgive sins lies with those who deny the literal interpretation. So it does, and they think they do prove it by the Scriptures, by other parts of the Liturgy, and by the history of' the Reformation, and of the compilation of the Prayer-book.
But what is the practice? The minister has just concluded the confession of sins in which he joins personally and not representatively, as is shown by the plural form and the Amen in which he must always join. Then he rises and reads the declaration in the second person. Usually he makes the gesture of extending the hands and arms as if conveying and handing out pardons. He solemnly states the ground and reason for what he does, i. e., if he uses the longer form, and utters the words with the tone and manner of a judicial officer delivering the remission of a sentence. Unless he disclaims, and protests that he is not a mediating priest, empowered to forgive sins, the people get to believe they hear the voice of God, and that without his authoritative and official sanction, ordinarily, their pardon cannot be obtained. The carnal mind naturally desires that, and wishes to have it so. It loves and knows only the outward and visible, and desires to be assured if there is any spiritual and invisible things, they may assuredly be attached to the outward and visible. Ministers like it, for it invests them with vast power and influence, [20/21] places them between the souls of men and God, and gradually makes them to be gods in the regard of the people and virtually to be worshiped. In some cases the expression of the inward regard and worship is given by dressing them, ornamenting their "holy place," setting them on high, incensing them, presenting offerings to them, confessing to them, and showing the greatest awe, obsequiousness, and superstitious and slavish obedience to their will.
How others who read the form of absolution regard it, may be learned by the following example. The "Memphis Baptist," in a late issue has administered a rebuke to the Rev. F. Pension, because he exchanged with Rev. Mr. Hubbard, and used our service. The paper says:--
"That was a very liberal Baptist minister to use prayers of dead Catholic and semi-Catholic monks and priests and pronounce the written blasphemy of absolution! The Baptist Church will be blessed when all such ministers leave her communion."
We are sorry to see such language, and feel it is unjust. They mistake in regard to the character of the prayers both as to their source and their truly Protestant petitions. All controversialists who find fault with Liturgical worship of any form yet admit the entire Scripturalness of the prayers. The strong expression about the absolution can only be true and justifiable on the ground that the sacerdotal theory of the ministry is the tenet of our standards. Mr. Denison could not have used and read that declaration of absolution in consistency with the Evangelical teachings of his own Church, if he believed he took the position of a sacerdotal officer delivering the remission of sins. He held no such thing, and however the language, the scope of the Prayer-book, and the usage in the case of many ministers of our Church may go to establish such a view, yet neither he nor Rev. Mr. Hubbard holds any such view. They only regarded it as a "declaration" of absolution, a preaching of the truth that God will and does forgive the penitent. We cannot expect members of other churches to be posted and familiar with the exceptions, explanations, rebutting evidence, and lines of argument by which Evangelical men keep a good conscience in the use of the absolution service. Give it the "priestly" interpretation, and it is blasphemy, and many of us would never use it again if that is fairly proved.
Allow that it is probably the sense and the most fair and reasonable view of it, then the conscience is entangled, the use of the form is attended with misgiving, weight and regret. No minister can use it with comfort, and doubt its Scripturalness. He must be satisfied with the explanations which remove the form of absolution [21/22] from the sphere of probability, and make it decidedly conformable to the Evangelical view of its meaning.
For ourselves we have always received, accepted, believed and taught that no creature can forgive sins, and that none, either corporately or individually, is empowered to do so. "TO THEE ONLY it appertaineth to forgive sins." The declaration of absolution only can be built on this foundation. "Absolution" by a minister, or creature of any grade, cannot. We have been satisfied that this is Scripture truth, and have used both forms of the declaration. We have repudiated and disclaimed in every way all sacerdotal power and prerogative, and have refused to accept any acknowledgment of mediatorial position and office. To all such attempts we have said as Peter did to Cornelius, "Stand up, I myself also am a man."
While this is true, we have always regretted the existence of any such words, phrases, usages aid implications as lead either our own ministers or men of other Churches to believe the contrary, even the sacerdotal and mediatorial views of the absolution. We think it advisable, desirable and imperative, that the whole Prayer-book be brought into harmony with the Scriptural, Protestant, and only true conception of the Gospel ministry. Remove that word "priest" wherever it occurs. Remove the clauses which figuratively and metaphorically imply the power of man to forgive sins, or say plainly they are figurative.
The spirit of directions given in the communion service fully proves this position to be the correct one. We find the following:--"Then shall this general confession be made by the Priest and all those who are minded to receive the Holy Communion, humbly kneeling." The minister includes himself in the company of penitents, and if he has the spirit of the Gospel will feel, "of whom I am chief." The "Amen" at the end of the confession is to be uttered by himself as well as the people. "The declaration of absolution" which he makes is as much needed for his own assurance and comfort as it is for others, and he should and no doubt, if a spiritual man, he does apply it to himself. Let, therefore, the wording be so altered that the minister shall preach, testify, proclaim "absolution, or remission of sins" to himself as well as to others. It will then read thus:--
"Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those who, with hearty repentance and true faith, turn unto him: Have mercy upon us; pardon and deliver us from all our sins: confirm and strengthen us in all goodness; and bring ns to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
 THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED:--THE OFFICE FOR "THE RECEIVING OF INFANTS."--"THE VISITATION OF THE SICK."--"THE OFFICE OF INSTITUTION."
Above, when referring to the changes in the Liturgy, which were effected when our Church was established in this country, the writer instanced one change in the form of "receiving infants" baptized in private, and showed the intention and reasonable cause for the changes in expression which were then made. We think they arose from the decided opposition of the compilers to the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration, and from their wish to free the Prayer-book from all phrases which they deemed liable to be abused to the support of that unscriptural and Romish dogma.
Changes of the same purport, and made with similar intent, designed to be doctrinal and Protestant, are found in connection with the communion service. Sacramentarians, Puseyites and Ritualists are strenuous in the maintenance of the position that our ministry is a priesthood, a sacerdotal sacrificing order. And they put into the title "priest." which occurs in the rubrics, all that the corrupt Church of Rome assigns to it.
Now the Romish doctrine of the "Priest" is this: "The Absolution of the Priest is not a bare ministry only, whether of announcing the Gospel, or of declaring that the sins are remitted; but is after the manner of a judicial act, in which sentence is pronounced by the priest as by a judge" (Council of Trent, Sess. xiv., Chap. vi). It is well known that the Reformers in England repudiated that position, and would not accept or claim it for God's ministers. Hence, they expunged all expressions implying it, or as they thought sufficiently guarded what they did allow to remain, and placed the antidote in close juxtaposition. For instance: In the English Prayer-book, "when the minister giveth warning for the celebration of the Holy Communion," at the end of the first exhortation he is directed to say, "Because it is requisite that no man should come to the Holy Communion but with a full trust in God's mercy, and with a quiet conscience, therefore, if there be any of you who t y this means (i. e., by the self-examination, repentance and amendment before mentioned and advised) cannot quiet his own conscience, let him come to me, or to some other discreet and learned minister of God's word and open his grief that by the ministry of God's word he may receive the benefit of absolution," etc. In controversy the Romish adversaries [23/24] in England have contended that the English Church claims for her ministry a judicial priestly character the same as Rome claims for all her "priests," and that these terms, "open his grief," and "receive the benefit of absolution," are used in the technical sense of Canon IX of Trent, on the Sacrament of Penance. The Anglican Catholics have contended for the same and have used these words, and others like them, in the visitation of the sick as their heavy guns to reduce the citadel of Protestant truth.
The Evangelical writers, however, have been able to show that the words explain themselves, and if the Sacramentarians italicise "open His grief" and "receive the benefit of absolution," we also can emphasize and say "some discreet and learned minister of God's Word;" and "open His grief, that by the ministry of God's Word he may receive the benefit of absolution." They contend the plain sense is, that by the ministry of God's Word, in his proclamation of the good tidings that the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin, and that there are abundant promises of forgiveness to the penitent sinner, he acts as the minister of God's Word, and in no sense in a judicial manner.
But our compilers were not desirous to have the controversy carried on under the seeming advantage which these phrases gave to the opponents of the truth. Therefore in our Prayer-book they left them out, and the direction now reads, "Let him come to me, or to some other minister of God's Word, and open his grief; that he may receive such godly counsel and advice, as may tend to the quieting of his conscience, and the removal of all scruples and doubtfulness."
Thus we perceive the slight foot-hold given, or supposed to be given, claimed and contended for by the sacramentarians, and which was so easily shown to be untenable, was thought to be too much to be safely left in the service, and it was removed. Would they had been as clear, as discriminating, and careful in regard to the Baptismal service and all depending on that!
But the case was worse, by far, in regard to the office for the visitation of the sick. In the English Prayer-book the Rubric reads as follows:--"Here shall the sick person be moved to make a special confession of his sins, if he feel his conscience troubled with any weighty matter. After which confession the priest shall absolve him (if he humbly and heartily desire it), after this sort:--Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to His Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in Him, of His great mercy forgive thee thine offenses; and by His authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
 This certainly looks ugly, as it frowns upon the scriptural truth, "To thee only it appertaineth to forgive sins." But the Evangelical men of the English Church, satisfactorily to themselves and to the silencing of their, opponents, contend that the citation of the service or office for the visitation of the sick should not stop with the words above quoted. They claim that the language of the prayer, which directly follows the words of so-called technical absolution, are entirely inconsistent with any such priestly and judicial view of them. For he prays to God thus, "Open thine eye of mercy upon this thy servant, who most earnestly desireth pardon and forgiveness. Consider his contrition, accept his tears, assuage his pain as shall seem to thee most expedient for him. And forasmuch as he putteth his full trust only in thy mercy (not in the absolution of a creature) impute not unto him his former sins, but strengthen him with thy Blessed Spirit; and when thou art pleased to take him hence, take him unto thy favor; through the merits of thy most dearly beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord."
The point made is, if the minister had already judicially and authoritatively absolved him from his sins, it would be inconsistent and only solemn trifling to pray with such fervor and earnestness for the. pardon and forgiveness of the same penitent. Therefore as the office does not intend to stultify itself, nor to confuse and confound the mind of the distressed and anxious person, it is plain that the absolution is only a declaration, a ministry of the Word, a publication that God will forgive the truly penitent, and an humble and submissive committal of the sick and dying person to the sovereign and covenant mercy of God.
But our founders of the Protestant Episcopal Church would not retain the objectionable, the abused, and tempting language in our Liturgy, and they omitted it. We are not able to assign any other reason for the omission than this, that their doctrinal views were decidedly opposed to the Sacerdotal and Mediatorial theory of the ministry. It seems to us, that they had been only consistent, and had shown a greater degree of wisdom if they had left it out of the public service also. For though it admits of the same defense and explanation, it is liable to the same abuse, and is practically thus abused and interpreted.
 THE OFFICE OF INSTITUTION.
A leading Bishop of our Church, referring to the words "Priest, Sacrifice, and Altar," and to the unscriptural and false theory built upon the principles which those words represent, says;--"I do not believe the sacerdotal theory is in our Prayer-book in any degree. The Institution Office is a fungus in that respect, in our Prayer-book, but not of it." Those who will compare it with the "Consecration Office" preceding, will perceive the remarkable difference in the terms given to the same things, and the variation of tone, spirit and teaching. In the Consecration Service, the words "Communion Table, and Communion Service," occur; in the Institution Service, we find the words, "Altar, Officiating Priest, Holy Eucharist, and Sacerdotal Function;" and, though the words Minister and Presbyter are used in the latter service as titles of him who is also called "Priest," yet by the collocation of "altar" and "sacerdotal function," the office shows that the name presbyter is not regarded as the full, and complete, and only synonym of "Priest." This is the only place in our standards in which "altar" occurs," and, as has been said, it forms no part of the authorized and obligatory services of our Church. It is a fungus, but like all plants of that kind, the ideas in the Institution have rapidly increased, and have spread the false and corrupting sacerdotal theory until it has nearly covered the whole denomination. The practice of our ministers and members in regard to the office of Institution is various. Those who disbelieve in the sacerdotal theory will not use it, and "Institution" is almost entirely confined to those who claim, love and vainly exercise a "Sacerdotal function."
The Institution Office is not only a subject of controversy and disputed authority, but is abhorrent to Protestant feelings, and is practically useless. It does not make the position of a minister who is thus "instituted," any more secure than is that of those not thus instituted. It is so grand and imposing in its pomp, pretensions and legal diction, that in any case of its use, other than where there are large temporalities, or an influential position connected with it, such use is felt to be a satire and impertinence.
The binding tie between a minister and his people, is their mutual preference and affection; when respect and affection terminate, no canonical regulations will hold them in their parochial relation. We think, therefore, the Institution office should be eliminated from the Prayer-book, or so revised that there shall be in it no semblance of or possibility of covert for the Sacerdotal theory.
 REASONS FOR PROPOSED ALTERATIONS.
Within the limits of a brief pamphlet, it would not be possible to give all the reasons which impel to the obtaining of a revision of the Prayer-book at this time. The main one is the apparent want of harmony between the utterances of the Liturgy and the Holy Scriptures. If real disagreement is proved upon the offices, and inconsistency with themselves in various parts, then it is conclusive that all should be brought in concord with the word of God, and in unison with themselves.
But there are other reasons which are important and really felt to be weighty and seen to be influencing with many minds. Three only will be stated at some length, and others will be assigned without comment.
First.--By a thorough and judicious revision according to the draft and specifications herein given, relief will be afforded to the clergy. It is not unfrequently stated by the opponents of all revision that it is impossible for those who object to the use of disputed and controverted expressions to reconcile the use of them in any way with their own consciences. It is thought that the only relief they ought to seek or expect, is to cease using the Prayer-book in any case, and withdraw from the ministry, and in the case of laymen to give up the membership of our Church. But most of the advocates of revision do not feel the necessity of such relief. One such advocate of the cause says:--"I believe that it is no very great difficulty with most of us, in the quietude of our own studies, and over our writing desks, and with the recorded opinions of learned and pious men upon our shelves, to accept that interpretation which has been put by conventional tradition upon the disputed passages. But the real grievance is, that we do not like to read aloud passages and words, from one point of view, under cover of some sort of mental reservation, or according to a rather far-fetched interpretation, which are generally understood by our congregations in another sense,--and, as is claimed by those who are entirely satisfied with the offices, in their plain, primary, and literal sense."
It is not expedient or advisable upon every occasion of such use of the expressions as is required, to give the explanation, and explicitly state the sense in which they are understood. It is not always possible to avoid being compromised and placed in a false position, when in connection with others the services are used and an interpretation by emphasis or gesture is given by the officiator. [27/28] And though a settled congregation may be so well and thoroughly instructed by the minister that they all and individually understand the way he means to teach the doctrines implied in the services, yet there are, perhaps, strangers present who are stumbled and offended, and the course of explanation and protest has to be kept up whenever an increase of the congregation is sought or received. To have the services, therefore, so worded that the form shall be in all cases a form of sound words, and freed from all ambiguity would be a relief, not only to the conscience, but a relief from those anxieties and exactions which now cause depression and the loss of time and waste of effort.
Second.--This brings us to notice another reason, and one of more extensive import and varied bearing than that already considered. It is this, that the use of the expressions under consideration and the avowed or implied position that they are taken and understood in a different sense, becomes a training in equivocation. In the upper house of Parliament a declaration was lately made by the Bishops, that "there is a peculiar sense (sub mente) in which young men may take upon themselves the most solemn pledges, and sign the most solemn subscriptions." In regard to the Articles, that system of interpretation, which takes words not in their plain and grammatical meaning, and adhering to the obvious and literal sense, but taking them in some far-fetched and less obvious sense, has long obtained and been in vogue. And it has led to the greatest variety of teachings, and in some cases to the entire abandonment of all contained in those standards.
The same course in reference to the Liturgy has ended in a similar result. The danger, that the habit of mind, and the practice of interpretation and double sense, will extend to the words of Scripture themselves, and thus the same equivocation, glossing, and practical reversal of their divine statements will be apparent, is not one merely to be apprehended. The evil has been most sadly and widely exemplified, and threatens to affect all religious teaching.
And if those who teach others are seen, and apprehended to adopt and practice such a system of interpretation, those who hear will not be backward in following the same system adopted in religious affairs; the practice will be adopted in secular matters, and engender and encourage prevarication and equivocation, the result of mental reserve in all the relations and business of life. There will be an entire want of reliance on the plainest and most earnest and solemn declarations, and the query will be changed from "what is truth?" to "where is truth?"
Thus it will be seen that the evil principle once introduced, or allowed, spreads its contagion, and taints all the good with which it [28/29] comes in contact. The double or less obvious sense becomes a cancer on the face of truth. In the name, therefore, of plain honest speaking, in the name of public morality, in the name of true religion it us preclude the need or the possibility of anything like equivocation.
Thirdly.--Still another reason urging to the work of revision is the desirableness of propitiating the large numbers of Christians belonging to other Churches who hold the same true faith set forth in our Articles. The comprehension of other denominations is equally important with the preceding advantages of relief and truth, and one which, if effected on a basis of pure Gospel truth and Gospel order, cannot be too much desired nor too patiently sought after.
On the basis of calculation furnished by the latest summary of statistics, it is claimed that our Church is acknowledged by two millions of the population of the United States. The best estimates of the number of inhabitants under our government make the total to be thirty millions. Therefore it must follow that there are twenty-eight millions who either know not of the Prayer-book, or are settled in their determination to have nothing to do with it as it is. That resolution may be founded on preference for the Missal, upon a prejudice, or, as is the case with vast multitudes, upon a careful and close study of its contents and a candid comparison with the Scriptures and with itself. The writings and controversies which have been before the public for the last thirty years, and the very recent agitations which are attracting the attention of English and American Christians, have afforded every facility for arriving at a clear knowledge and sound judgment on all points of doctrine, and peculiarities of ritual, of ritualistic interpretation, and of discipline. In and among some denominations around us the same differences of teaching in regard to sacramental grace are found, and they are troubled with, the same difficulties which we experience. It cannot be expected that they could be brought to contemplate a union with us, if they must upon joining our Church find themselves at once in the midst of a controversy similar to and more intense than their own, or one which would be entirely new to them, and exceedingly distasteful.
Doctrinal variances are always more persistently held than any arising from discipline; form and order. And if we purge our formularies of the unscriptural and controverted expressions which they chiefly make the causes of objection and repulsion, lesser obstacles might easily be removed by that natural love of peace and union which belongs to the Lord's family. It is not every form of Liturgical worship that is determinately opposed by other Protestant [29/30] Churches, for they have shown both a willingness to entertain the idea of adopting such a mode, and in some cases have made the attempt to introduce it. But the objections to the expressions in our Liturgy which we have given in detail, and the conclusions derived from Rubrical directions and from the general practice of the clergy in the following of them, are insurmountable. Let us, therefore, remove the things within, which give occasion and just cause for objection to our teachings and usages, and throw wide the door of admission to our fellowship, and we believe greater visible union will soon take place among the professed followers of Christ.
We have endeavored to make it plain by the preceding remarks, that the spirit in which revision is asked is as far as possible developed from the principle of omission rather than of addition. It is proposed to diminish, rather than increase, the dogmatic assertions of our standards.
We are aware that the feeling of many men is one of apprehension, lest the effort to revive the Liturgy in the few things specified should open the door to the admission and addition of more serious errors. And such fears are deserving of the most earnest and thoughtful consideration. Yet it is true that similar fears have always prevailed in times and exigencies when reform and improvement have been proposed and advocated. And had they been allowed full sway, had they been yielded to, the Great Reformation itself, and the previous revisions of the Prayer-book had never been accomplished. The words of Lord Palmerston are weighty and relevant:--"For a country like this, there cannot be a more dangerous doctrine to establish than this, that it is disgraceful to men to yield their convictions to the force of counteracting events and circumstances. If every man in this country were chained for ever to the opinions which in his early career he entertained, there could be no progress or improvement in the country!"
The truth may be inconvenient, but, as Archbishop Whately says: "If we give way to a dread of danger from the inculcation of any truth, physical, moral or religious, we manifest a want of faith in God's power, or in the will to maintain His own cause. There may be danger attending on every truth, since there is none that may not be perverted by some, or that may not give offense to others but in the case of anything which plainly appears to be truth, every danger must be braved. We must maintain the truth as we have received it, and trust to Him who is 'The Truth' to prosper and defend it."
SOME PLAIN REASONS WHY THE PRAYER--BOOK SHOULD BE REVISED.
I. Because the principle of Revision is distinctly admitted in the preface of the Prayer-book itself.
II. Because it is contrary to common sense to suppose that alterations should not be required in a human composition, which has remained untouched for 200 years, during which time everything else has progressed.
III. Because the combined use of Three Services, Originally intended to be distinct, leads to unreasonable length and to undesirable repetitions.
IV. Because little or no alteration is desired in the ordinary Services for Sundays, except as regards rubrics.
V. Because various Formularies of the Church cannot now be read without apparent mental reservation; and it is most undesirable that Christian Ministers should even appear to understand and interpret words, otherwise than in their plain and strict meaning.
VI. Because the word "regenerate" is a controverted term; and yet its omission in the Baptismal Services, together with a few other verbal alterations, would remove the ground of contention, leaving the disputed question open.
VII. Because it is in the power of any parish Clergyman to introduce into his Church a system of "muffled Popery," and to indulge in singularities of dress and ceremonial which were not contemplated by the compilers of the Prayer-book; and this abuse of power has occurred, does occur, and is likely to occur again.
VIII. Because persons who are well qualified for the ministry are prevented from offering themselves for Ordination, owing to some few expressions in the Occasional Services.
IX. Because many Clergymen, who are most sincerely attached to the Payer-book generally, nevertheless, feel themselves under conscientious difficulties, for want of reasonable alterations.
X. Because it is incumbent upon those who profess the Reformed Faith to seek to restore our Formularies according to the intentions of the Reformers themselves.
The efforts which are made by those who desire a revision of our Liturgy are directed in two lines. In a recent publication entitled "Are there Romanizing Germs in the Prayer-book?" the historical treatment of the subject is fully and conclusively made. In this pamphlet the Scriptural argument is almost exclusively followed. The laborers in, and the friends and supporters of, all the movements for reform in our Church, yield to none in their devotion to the increase and prosperity of the denomination. They love her plain houses of worship, her Gospel ministry, and her Protestant formularies. But we do not love her faults, nor are we blind to her imperfections. We may say with Dr. Arnold:--
"My love for any place, or person, or institution, is exactly the measure of my desire to reform them,--a doctrine which seems to me as natural now as it seemed strange when I was a child, when I could not make out how, if my mother loved ME MORE THAN STRANGE CHILDREN, she should find fault with me and not with them. But I do not think this ought to be a difficulty to any one who is MORE THAN SIX YEARS OLD."
The foregoing suggestions and plain reasons are humbly submitted to those who in the Providence of God, are, or may be placed in the room of those having the authority and the privilege of undertaking the work of revision. It is truly a desirable and enviable post of duty and privilege.
How joyfully the Evangelical men of England, who have long desired such alterations as we have made at the outset of our Church, and who are fettered and hampered by the over-shadowing power of State union, would enter upon the task if they had the freedom and independence of our General Convention. How earnestly they regard us, and hopefully look for the progress and triumph of the cause in which we are engaged.
If we are favored, by the good hand of God upon us, to accomplish the great work of "removing the stumbling-blocks, and gathering up the stones out of the way," they will be encouraged to persevere, and will have the influence of what they will own to be a potent example.
"Therefore seeing we are encompassed with so great a cloud of witnesses," seeing the membership of our own Church, the great company of believers in other countries and in other Churches are interested and anxious beholders of our doings, "let us lay aside every weight" of "error, ignorance, pride, and prejudice," and in our several vocations and ministries serve the Lord faithfully.
Thus the efforts of' our councils may be blessed as the way in which God will answer the oft-repeated prayer, "that His continual pity would cleanse and defend His Church." "Thus the comfortable Gospel of Christ will be truly preached, truly believed, and truly followed in all places."