To make a right account of persons and things is necessary in order to discharge our duties with respect to them. We cannot pay to God the worship which we owe Him unless we have a true faith in Him. We cannot think and act as we ought towards our fellow men and fellow Christians, unless we know the relations in which we stand to them, and the duties which grow out of those relations. For every relation involves duties, and every duty implies a right; since duty is something due, and whatever is due or owing to a person he has a right to receive. Hence, right and duty are correlative.
And let it be remarked that the sentiments and conduct which we owe to persons and things around us, depend on what they really are, and not on what we think them to be. Men may not believe in God; but still God is, and they are bound to believe in Him, and to serve Him. They may believe Jesus, the Son of God, to be no more than a man; but still Jesus Christ is their Lord and Saviour, and they are bound to "honor the Son, even as they honor the Father." We may think amiss on many things, but though our thoughts may lead us into many mistakes of conduct, they cannot change the nature of things, nor make that which is, cease to be. It is part of our probation in this world to be rightly informed on all subjects on which we are obliged to act, lest wrong opinions should betray us into wrong practice. Hence, as you may observe, the Apostle does not say that because a man accounts us to be this or that, therefore we may claim this or that treatment at his hands; but he says, Let a man account us to be what we really are, in order that he may shape his feelings and conduct accordingly.
The direction of my text, therefore, was of great use to the Christians whom St. Paul addressed; since, unless they knew what account to make of their spiritual pastors, they would not know how to behave towards them. And the direction is of the same importance now as then, seeing the same relation subsists, and the persons only are changed. The faith and doctrine of one age have succeeded to the faith and doctrine of a former age; the people of one age to the people of a former; the clergy of one age to the clergy of a former; and without this uninterrupted succession we could not hold, as we do, the faith and institutions of Christ. As Christians, therefore, we must assume the fact of the Apostolic succession; by which is meant a succession to the faith and institutions of the Apostles; a succession of doctrine, a succession of teachers or pastors, and a succession of disciples or people; and as we have the same relation of pastors and people, or clergy and laity, now as then, so the clergy may say now with the same truth that the Apostles said then, "Let a man so account of us as of ihi ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God;" and whatever importance the direction possessed for the people then, it possesses the same now.
And if it be important to know how we ought to account of those with whom we are connected by natural relations, whether domestic, or social, or civil, in order that we may discharge the duties which grow out of them, it is more important that we know how to account of those with whom we are connected by spiritual relations, in order that we may discharge the higher and more comprehensive duties which grow out of them. Moreover, as the clergy are a perpetual as well as a spiritual order in the church of God, and hold a life-long relation to the people, (a relation which ordinarily meets us in infancy and leaves us only in death', which follows us whithersoever we go; which is the same age after age, and which creates duties of instant, unceasing, and invariable obligation), it must be of the last importance to estimate aright the relation in which we stand to them.
Observe, then, I do not undertake to prove that there is such an order of men as the clergy; for this is an existing fact. Neither do I undertake to prove that they are divinely authorized to minister in holy things; for this is what is meant by their being clergymen or ministers of Christ. Nor yet am I to show when or how this authority is conferred; for I suppose it to be granted that it is conferred in and by Ordination. Nor yet do I propose to institute a comparison of the conflicting claims of different denominations of professing Christians; for I wish to shut out all invidious and controverted topics. But assuming the existence of such a body of men as the clergy, I propose to consider their relation to the laity or people of the church; what account God would have us make of them; how He would have us feel and act towards them. And on this point the Apostle's instructions arc plain; for he tells us that we are to account of the clergy--
I. AS MINISTERS OF CHRIST.
II. AS STEWARDS OF THE MYSTERIES OF GOD.
I. In the first place we are to account of the clergy as ministers of Christ.
The word minister means an inferior; one who acts under a superior, and in virtue of a derived and not an inherent authority. The office of a minister gives him a two-fold relation; first, to his superior, and secondly to those towards whom he acts in his superior's name. Thus the ministers of civil government are persons vested with authority by government to serve it at home or abroad, and to carry out its designs; to help its subjects and to awe its enemies. The minister has plainly a twofold class of duties growing out of his twofold relation; but for the discharge of these duties, it is plain that he is directly responsible to those by whose authority he acts, and to none others. Thus in our country, the cabinet ministers are directly responsible to the President who appoints them, and our ministers abroad are directly responsible to their government at home. Now as the clergy are ministers, it is important to observe whose ministers they are, and by whose authority they act; and on this point our text is explicit, for it tells us that they are the ministers of Christ, and not the ministers of the people.
And lest it be supposed that this distinction is made on insufficient grounds, it is worthy of remark that the clergy are always referred to in the Holy Scriptures as ministers of God or Christ, and never as ministers of the people or of the Church. In 2 Cor. vi. 1, 4, they are called "workers together with Christ, and ministers of God." In 1 Thess. iii. 2, Timothy is called "a minister of God." "Are they ministers of Christ?" asks St. Paul if some false teachers of his day. And the same Apostle terms Epaphras "a faithful minister of Christ" (Col. i. 7); and addressing Timothy he says, "Thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ." Sometimes indeed they are called ministers of that which they minister, as (2 Cor. iii. 6), "ministers of the New Testament;" and (Eph. iii. 7, and again, Col. i. 23), "ministers of the gospel;" but they are never called ministers of the people or ministers of the church.
I need not say how exactly this accords with the other descriptions of our office in the New Testament. Thus St. Paul says, "We are ambassadors of Christ," persons clothed with His authority, to make to men the overtures of salvation, to procure their reconciliation to God and to seal the Covenant in His Name. And our blessed Saviour, in the grand commission which forms the charter of his Church, says, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth; go ye, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this he breathed on them and said, receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them: and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained."
It is no derogation to a minister's divine commission that he makes himself the servant of men. For St. Paul abased himself that the Corinthians might be exalted. "Though I be free from all men," he says, "yet have I made myself a servant to all that I might gain some." He was not really their servant, but being free he made himself such; he became their servant for Christ's sake, and as a minister of Christ, might be, and ought to be, ready to demean himself for their good to all servile offices, but always reserving his obedience to Christ and looking to Christ, and not to them as his master.
In the same way the same Apostle says, "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants--"your slaves--"for Jesus' sake;" an expression which conveys, by a bold figure, his earnest desire to abase himself for the good of those to whom he ministered, and to busy himself in the unwearied discharge of the most painful and humiliating duties of his heavenly mission. In this sense the ministers of Christ ought always to be the servants of the people; and he is the worthiest minister of Christ, who is the humblest laborer for the good of men: for as the mother-sin of man is pride, so the Christian economy, which is meant for the cure of pride, is founded in humility; it being in truth the sum and substance of the gospel that even the Word of God, the Eternal Son of the Father, was made flesh and died on the cross for us men and for our salvation.
It is right and safe to adhere, as far as we can, to scriptural modes of speech, because they are apt to convey and to preserve scriptural thoughts; whereas unscriptural modes of speech are apt to express and to propagate unscriptural notions, and have perhaps been invented for the purpose. On this account it is better to call the clergy, as our use is, rectors or pastors of churches, than ministers of churches. The force of the latter expression may be seen from the analogy of civil affairs. We speak of our minister at St. James's, or our minister to Great Britain, but we would hot say of the person who serves our government in that country, that he is a minister of Great Britain, for that would imply that he derived his authority from the British government and was responsible to it for the discharge of his mission. So to say that a clergyman is the minister of such a church, conveys the notion that he derives his authority from the members of that church, and is deputed by them to his office. Call your clergyman the minister of Christ to or over you or for you, or Christ's minister among you, and you use scriptural language and express scriptural truth; but call him the minister of your church, or your church's minister, or your minister, and you use an expression which is capable, indeed, of a sound construction, and may plead good authority; but which, as being apt to convey an erroneous impression, and as having no scriptural warrant, had better, I think, be avoided.
As our text teaches us to account of the clergy as of the ministers of Christ, so it teaches us to account of them as
II. Stewards of the Mysteries of God.
The function of the ministry is here expressed by two words, stewards and mysteries. I shall speak briefly of each of these terms, inverting their order.
1. A mystery, in its general meaning, is something secret, hidden, or veiled from the sight. In our text and other passages of the New Testament, the doctrines of Christ are called mysteries, because, having been long kept hidden from the world, they were revealed to the Church. In ecclesiastical language, however, a mystery is a spiritual thing veiled under a sensible sign. In this sense, "God"--the invisible Jehovah--" manifest in the flesh," is a mystery, indeed the great mystery of godliness. The inward and invisible life of Christ is also a mystery, because manifested in the outward and visible Church, which is his Body. In particular the birth and the nutriment of the divine life are mysteries, because they are inward and spiritual realities manifested to our senses under the outward and visible signs of the washing of water and of bread and wine. In a general way, all spiritual things, all that God has done for us, all that He communicates to us, are called mysteries, because manifested to us by means of words and symbols which are their audible and visible exponents. The word sacrament, which is of Latin as is mystery of Greek original, is of the same import; and is used in our Church to denote the two greater, as is sacramentals, which is a diminutive of sacrament, to denote some of the lesser mysteries of the Christian Economy. Taking the word in this sense, we may understand by "the mysteries of God" the sum and substance of Christianity manifested by means of sensible signs.
2. A steward is one who is set over a household to administer its affairs according to the directions of its head. The original word means literally an economist, or one who manages and dispenses the goods entrusted to him, not rashly and without discretion as one who casts pearls before swine, but prudently and according to the laws of a wise and judicious economy. The treasures of the house are not the property of the members nor of the steward, but of the lord or owner; who gives them in trust to the steward, and through him to the members. Those who are not members of the family have no right in them, no just claim to them; those who are members have a birthright in them; not, however, the right of stewards, but only of members; a right to know the conditions of the gift and to claim their portion from the steward; and, if defrauded, to demand that the laws of the household be enforced. But they can have no right to eject the steward, to put themselves in his place, to seize on the treasury and to squander its gifts; for this would be robbery and a subversion of the household; in a word, it would be anarchy, which is the annihilation of all rights.
The function, then, of the ministerial office is, in brief, to administer the mysteries or sacraments of Christ; that is, in a large sense, to preach the gospel; to admit men on prescribed conditions into the Church; to confirm them in the faith; to absolve the penitent and faithful agreeably to the terms of the gospel covenant; to feed them with the bread of life; to put the seal of God to the marriage union; to visit the sick; to bury the dead, and, in fine, to be the servants of men in the way that Christ has commanded.
The clergy, then, are the ministers of Christ to the world, clothed with authority to act under and in the name of Christ. But this authority is not arbitrary; and I propose now to speak of its limitations.
The authority of the first ministers of Christ, in the administration of the mysteries of God, was limited and guided by the personal directions of Christ and the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Under this inspiration the first ministers of Christ committed to writing His personal directions and those further counsels and precepts into which they had been led by the infallible guidance of the Holy Ghost. In after ages these writings became the rule by which the authority of the Christian minister was limited and guided. If differences arose, or new points not explicitly provided for, they were met, agreeably to this rule, by the collective wisdom of the ministry assembled in councils. The highest authority consistent with the scriptural rule (for whatever contradicts Scripture is of course worthless and false) was a general council, representing all parts of the Christian Church.
For several hundred years the Church of Christ continued to be one Body. The consent of the whole was the law of each. I do not mean that there were no disputes or controversies: these are the product of our unenlightened and unsanctified nature, and will always subsist; and in the early Church they were many and protracted and fierce. But I mean that there was no extensive and permanent interruption of communion. The tendency was towards union, and not towards division; towards the edification or building up of the Body in the faith and love of Christ, and not towards the dissolution of the Body in infidelity and anarchy. Such an union can only subsist in fundamentals; in a steadfast adherence to those first principles of the faith which are the necessary foundation of Christian worship, and those first principles of charity which are the necessary bond of Christian intercourse. To this point the attention of the early church was directed. That only was accounted heresy which was directly subversive of the foundation; and they only were accounted heretics who originated or factiously defended such errors. The consequence was that heresies, as they arose from age to age, passed off like bubbles on the surface of the ocean, and heretics were no more accounted of than monsters in nature. For the consent of all Christians, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, in the first principles of faith and charity, was as spontaneous and palpable as the consent of all mankind in the first principles of reason and morality.
The first wide and lasting interruption of this union was the grand schism of the Eastern and Western, the Greek and Latin Churches. Then first Christians, travelling from Europe to Asia, and from Asia to Europe, were debarred from intercommunion and fellowship. The Western Churches continued to hold intercommunion until the time of the Reformation, when first, after the lapse of fifteen hundred years, the communion of the Western Churches was broken, and Europe presented the sad spectacle--for sad it is to a Christian eye--of Church against Church and altar against altar.
Great is the goodness of God, my Brethren, and wonderful the power of Christian faith and love which, for so many ages, secured for men a boon of which they were always unworthy, and which for their sins was finally withdrawn. In view of the forfeiture of this blessed boon, the true Christian, of whatever name, or whatever country, or whatever particular church,1 will humbly and penitently exclaim," Remember not Lord our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers!" But I here advert to the fact merely to say that the Reformation did not deprive us of the principle on which the union of the ancient Church was founded. The particular Church from which ours is descended did not renounce allegiance to the Universal Church. She did not depart from that faith which the universal Church had defined as the necessary foundation of Christian worship, nor from that law of charity which the universal Church had ever recognized as the bond of peace. She prescribed no new terms of communion. She abrogated none which the Universal Church had prescribed. She did not, at the difficult crisis of the Reformation, legislate for the Churches of Europe, but for herself and her children. The foundation of faith, as it was defined in the really universal councils, as it has always stood and now stands, she left untouched. The points which she rejected, such as the veneration of saints and images, and purgatory, are on the face of them not fundamental--no part of that faith which is the necessary foundation of Christian worship; and, in fact, neither these nor any other points which she rejected, were held to be necessary or binding on the conscience for the first six centuries of the Christian era. Without the concurrence of the Church of these first centuries, it is idle to talk of universal consent; and with it on our side there can be no violation of universal consent. That this was the principle of the English Reformation is manifest from enduring documents; from the canons of the English Church, from her public and authorized formularies, and from the acts of the parliament of the British nation. And if such were the principle and conformable practice of our Reformation (as we all believe it to have been) it follows that there has been no violation of our allegiance to the Catholic or Universal Church.
With this explanation I proceed to remark that the authority of each particular or national Church is limited by the Holy Scriptures, and those explanations of the faith which have been made by the universal or Catholic Church. If a particular church breaks through these limits, and teaches doctrine or enacts laws repugnant to Scripture or to the decisions of the Universal Church, she ceases to be Christian and Catholic. She is no longer a church of Christ, and no man owes her allegiance. If she defines new articles of faith which are not contained in Scripture, and have not been sanctioned by the universal Church, and imposes them as necessary to salvation, she creates just cause of schism and is therefore herself, by the confession of all divines, guilty of criminal schism. These, then, i. e. Scripture and universal consent, are the grand limitation of ministerial authority, and the grand security of ecclesiastical liberty; the effectual safeguard against having the faith of Christ overlaid on the one hand by corrupt superstitions, or undermined on the other by crude conceits and frigid metaphysics. Leave this foundation, and your Christian liberty is gone, and your only choice is between the licentiousness of despotism, and the despotism of licentiousness. On this foundation, however (which to speak plainly is neither more nor less than the Nicene Creed), and consistently with it, it is competent for a particular church to enact particular laws and canons for her own welfare, and the discipline of her members; so they be not prescribed as of necessity to salvation. The laws and canons thus enacted, agreeably to Scripture and the definitions of faith by the universal Church, form an additional limitation to ministerial authority; the private minister being bound by the laws of his own particular Church in matters not fundamental, in the same way that each particular church is bound by the laws of the universal Church, in matters which are fundamental. Hence in our own Church the authority of the ministers of Christ is limited and guided by the Holy Scriptures, by the ancient Catholic creeds and liturgy of her Prayer Book, by her articles, and by all the rules and canons which she has framed and adopted. These are in every man's hands, and in the event of culpable neglect or misconduct on the part of the clergy, furnish the laity of the church with a ready means of redress. And what adds to the security is that, on all those matters on which a particular church is competent to legislate, the clergy have gladly availed themselves of the aid of their lay brethren in legislation; so that no law or canon can be passed in the councils of our church without the concurrence of the laity. Hence, as on the one hand there is no check or limitation to ministerial authority in which the clergy do not acquiesce, so on the other hand there can be no extension of that power to which the laity do not consent.
And now, brethren, permit me to trespass on your indulgence with some inferences and reflections naturally connected with the subject.
1. First then, if there be an order of men appointed by God to be ministers of Christ, and stewards of His mysteries, it follows that as they must, so they alone can, dispense these mysteries; i.e. preach the gospel and administer the sacraments.
If Almighty God had not interposed His directions in matters of religion, then reason tells us that we should have a natural right to regulate them for ourselves. But, since God has interposed His directions and put certain powers into the hands of certain men, the reason of the thing deprives men of their natural right, and limits the exercise of these powers to those to whom God has entrusted them. Thus, when officers are appointed under civil government, there is no need of a positive law to incapacitate others from exercising the offices, but the appointment, from the reason of the thing, limits the power to those who are appointed and excludes others. The appointment of judges, and justices of peace, e.g. and other functionaries of government, limits these offices to those who receive them; and any man who should pretend to exercise such offices without the commission of government, would be accounted an usurper and disturber of the peace. In like manner we need no positive precept to show that the laity have no right of themselves to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments; since the exercise of these functions is limited to the clergy by the very fact of their appointment. [For a fuller statement of the argument, see Bennet's "Rights of the Clergy," printed in London, A. D., 1711.]
But not only have the laity no right to dispense the mysteries of Christ, but, except authorized by the clergy, they cannot dispense them.
They may perform the same acts with the clergy, but these acts, though the same for the matter of them, are yet essentially different, owing to the different character of the persons who perform them. A stranger may address to a child the same words as a father; but what he says is not a parent's advice. An advocate may sum up the merits of a cause with unexceptionable ability and candor; but what he says, is not the opinion of the judge. A statesman may give a more able review of our diplomatic relations than that which proceeds from the cabinet; but his document is not the President's Message. Such illustrations serve to explain a truth which none, I suppose, will dispute, that actions which are materially the same, are yet essentially different when performed in different characters and capacities. Thus it is, that the commission of Christ's ministers gives to those acts which they are appointed to perform, a character which does not and cannot belong even to the same actions, when performed by others. Admit the fact, that God has appointed an order of men to be the stewards of His mysteries--(and the fact is admitted, practically at least, by professing Christians of every denomination--and theoretically and practically by the great body of Christians from the beginning)--and it follows inevitably, that those who are not so appointed, cannot, in the proper sense of the terms, preach the gospel, plant churches, or administer the sacraments. Hence, we say, that where the ministry of Christ is, there and there alone, on earth, is the church of Christ.
But though the laity cannot of themselves act as "stewards of the mysteries of God," yet they may so act in virtue of authority derived from the ministry. This is God's way of perpetuating Ms church on earth. By ordination a layman may be admitted into the clerical order, and authorized to administer the higher mysteries of the Christian economy. Without ordination laymen are admitted in some Catholic churches to baptize; which is a very different thing from lay-baptism out of the church, and in contravention to her authority. Without ordination, laymen are admitted in our church, under certain restrictions, to celebrate the service, and to deliver sermons on occasions of public worship; and in all ages of the church, the advice and talents of the laity have been accepted as valuable aids to the clergy, especially in the greater works of charity, and in the discharge of eleemosynary trusts. On the same principle, the counsel of the laity is sought in ecclesiastical synods, and they are invited to legislate with the clergy on matters subsidiary to THE FAITH. In the ancient church the union and co-operation of the two orders were marked, for both were actuated by a unity of purpose: they were one in counsel and action for the common good; the chief difference being that the clergy, as they alone could, acted as priests to dispense the blessing of God to the people and to present the alms and oblations of the people to God. But when the hand of persecution was stayed, and luxury and effeminacy crept in, and the minds of the laity were perverted by worldly influences and vicious counsels, the clergy were left alone to stem the torrent of degeneracy and to uphold the standard of Christian faith and morals. Hence the separation and conflicting interests of the two orders became as marked as their former union.
I do not mean to say that the ascendency thus acquired by the clergy was not abused by them in turn. We know that it was abused. I speak only of the cause of the wide separation which took place; one effect of which was the detachment of the laity from consultation and concert with the clergy. For a long time previously to the Reformation, such a thing as the admission of the laity to a share in the legislation of the church was unknown. In none of the churches in communion with the See of Rome is such a thing now allowed. In the Catholic church of Scotland it is still unknown. At the time of the Reformation, (he voice of the laity was heard in the legislation of the church of England through the British Parliament. So long as the parliament consisted only of churchmen, it continued to represent, in theory at least, the laity of the Anglican church. At the time of the Revolution, the test acts were repealed in favor of Dissenters, and within our own days what is called the Catholic Emancipation Bill has been passed; so that the Parliament has long since ceased to be composed exclusively of churchmen; and Romanists and Protestant Dissenters legislate side by side with churchmen on matters pertaining to the church's weal, and may be the constitutional advisers of the crown in the nomination to bishoprics and other matters of importance. Consequently the laity are not now represented in the church of England; and in fact, I believe our own church is now the only Catholic and Apostolic church in Christendom in which the laity are represented and admitted to share in the legislative deliberations of the clergy. I need not tell you, brethren, how fearful the responsibility which this admission devolves on you; how it is regarded as an experiment in a church avowing its adhesion to Catholic principles; how many anxious friends and envious foes are watching the result; nor how it obliges you to qualify yourselves for the discharge of the solemn duties which it devolves by seeking, in constant prayer, the guidance of the Holy Spirit; by a just appreciation of the tenure by which you hold your right; and by a diligent study of the constitution of your own particular church, and of her relation to the church Universal. All this you know, and may God of his mercy save us from mutual jealousies within, and malign influences from without, and inspire us with a unity of purpose!
2. In the next place it is well to remember that if there be such an order as the Christian ministry, it has an existence quite independently of us, and is the gift of God, and not the offspring of our choice.
Jesus Christ is "the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe." He is the Saviour of men by His own grace and condescension, and by the appointment of the Almighty Father. He is not made their Saviour by their choice, He does not cease to be so by their refusal. All that men can say or do affects not Him, but themselves. If they accept Him, He is specially their Saviour, communicating to them, according to their capacity to receive it, all the grace of the state of salvation into which He has brought them. If they refuse him, He is still their Saviour, in having brought them into a state of salvation, although He withholds from them the grace which they refuse, and, refusing, are said to frustrate. The fact that He is the Saviour of mankind depends not in the least on men's choice. So with regard to the ministers of Christ. They are not made His ministers by our election, nor do they cease to be His ministers by our refusal of them. All that we can say or do affects not them, but ourselves. If we accept the truth at their hands, the truth shall make us free, and we shall be no longer servants, but sons: if we receive not the truth at their hands, and say we are free, we are in the worst of bondage. "If ye were blind," said our Lord to the men of one age, "ye should have no sin; but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." The ministers of Christ are responsible to Him for the faithful delivery of His message; they are not the more His ministers for our acceptance of their Master's message; they are not the less so for our rejection of it. They are not affected one way or the other; since by accepting we benefit, and by rejecting we injure ourselves, and ourselves alone.
3. This remark applies to the ministers of Christ as such, and it thus leads me to distinguish, thirdly, their ministerial from their personal character,
Jesus Christ our Head is God; and therefore what he professes to be, He is perfectly and immutably. His name or character is short of His perfection. With us the case is different. We are human; and the divine character impressed on us is imperfectly fulfilled. All Christians have been baptized into Christ; but who acts worthily of his Christian character? Some Christians are called to be ministers of Christ; but who acts worthily of the commission which he bears? Christians may act so unworthily of their profession as finally to be cut off from the Body of Christ and to perish for ever. Christ's ministers may act so unworthily of their mission as finally to be cut off from the Body of Christ and to perish for ever. Hence the importance of distinguishing the personal character of men from their Christian and ministerial character. What the Christian character is, is set forth diffusely in Scriptures, and in a condensed form by our Church in her office of Baptism, in which the Christian character is impressed. What the ministerial character is, is set forth diffusely in Scripture, and in a condensed form by the Church in her office for Ordination, in which the ministerial character is impressed. In the former the Christian, in the latter the ministerial character is expressed in its full, perfect, and immutable form. Now we have Christ's promise that He will always maintain on earth this standard of Christian and ministerial perfection; and that He will, by the Holy Spirit, always aid devout Christians and devout ministers in their efforts to attain to this standard; but we have no promise that all Christians and all ministers shall attain to the perfection of this standard. We have Christ's promise that He will always have a Church on earth, and that this Church shall be the pillar and ground of the truth; but we have no promise of infallibility to ministers or private Christians in their personal character. Hence we are always at liberty to compare the personal character and conduct of ministers and people with the standards which ought to regulate them; we are at liberty to pass such judgments of charity upon one another as may result from that comparison; and we have all, both clergy and people, our several measures of responsibility to God for every glaring departure from that standard. We see in the Prayer Book the true character of a Christian as gathered from the Holy Scriptures; and if any who bear the name of Christ are guilty (as, alas! too many are) of gross departures from that standard, it is the duty of us all to concur, in our respective stations in the Church, in subjecting such an one to discipline, and, if need be, to excommunication. We see in our Prayer Book the true character of a minister of Christ as gathered from Holy Scripture; and if any who bear the divine commission are guilty (as, alas! too many have been) of gross departures from that standard, it is the duty of all to concur, in our respective stations in the Church, in subjecting such an one to discipline, and, if need be, to degradation. Thus are we all responsible to God for the maintenance of the standard of truth and duty. The minister is "responsible to God for its maintenance; and no promises, no threats of the people should ever turn him from his purpose: the private Christian, in like manner, is responsible to God for the maintenance of the same standard of faith and morals; and no premises, no threats of the clergy should ever turn him from his purpose. Both are responsible to God, though acting of course in different capacities, for every rent in the unity of the Body of Christ.
4. And this brings me to my last general remark; viz. that the standard which thus defines our characters and relations is the fixed law of all of us, the measure and security of our Christian liberty; which, as we have received from those who came before us, so we arc bound to transmit in its integrity to those that shall come after us.
If you ask where this standard of truth and duty is to be found, I answer in our Prayer Book; not exclusively of the scriptures--God forbid!--but as a faithful exponent of scripture and a summary of those fundamental matters which scripture, interpreted by ancient and Catholic consent, requires. Of the meaning of our Prayer Book, of its creeds and catechism, of the offices of Baptism, Communion, Ordination and others, the layman is competent to judge as well as the priest; and when laymen study the subject, their labors are available as well as those of the clergy in showing the congruity of our standard to scripture, and to the testimony of the church in all times and especially the primitive age. If this standard be not the voice of scripture and of the Catholic church, then we ought to abandon it and seek elsewhere for the truth; but if it be, then it is our supreme law; a law superior to all the presbyters, superior to all the bishops of the present church, as it is intelligible to the humblest member of the church. And so far from discouraging the laity, I would earnestly call on them in the name of God to examine the church's standard, to compare with it the teaching and conduct of her clergy, to sustain and encourage us by their prayers and labors while we preach agreeably to our standard, and to oppose us, as a Christian may, when we depart from our standard and invalidate its authority. The clergy do indeed demand, in the name of Christ, submission to their judgments; but they demand it no farther than as they speak with the church and in the words of the church; and he who will not obey the church, "let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican." I say, therefore, freely, that I have no sympathy with those who represent a bishop's word, or a priest's word, as the rule of a Christian's conduct. I repel such an imputation on the Catholic principles which I advocate as false; and as, when applied to the ministers of Christ over our own church, the result either of ignorance or prejudice. I pin my faith to no man's sleeve, and ask no man to pin his faith to my sleeve. St. Athanasius was but a deacon in the church of God when he withstood many of her bishops, and so resisted the torrent of the Arian heresy, as to give rise to the saying, "Athanasius against the world." And in later times we have the shining examples of Lawrence, and Nelson, and Stevens, and other pious and intelligent laymen who have borne their testimony to Catholic truth and duty, when a majority of the bishops and archbishops of the state-trammelled church of England were ashamed of the faith of Christ, and prepared to undermine and betray it. These were LAYMEN who upheld the standard of Catholic faith and duty in opposition to the timeserving bishops of a degenerate and heretical age. And I would to God we had more such laymen now; and I doubt not that if God should suffer us for our sins to be afflicted with such bishops as would betray the citadel of our faith, he would also raise up among us such laymen as would bring their clear and capacious and heaven-directed minds to its defence. It is not the opposition of the laity of which we complain, but it is an ill-grounded opposition--an opposition founded in ignorance and fostered by prejudice,--it is this only which we dread, and dread for their sakes more than our own.
[The supercilious declarations of Sir Robert Peel in the late parliamentary debates, the clergy embarrassed in the discharge of obvious duty by the unsatisfactory decisions of lay-courts, the highest spiritual functionary in the kingdom making prayers "to order" for the Cabinet, are among the least though latest proofs of this overshadowing of the English church by the Upas of the temporal power. A still more touching proof of the same baneful influence is found in the treatment of those whose efforts to awaken their church to a just sense of her rights have arrayed against them the displeasure of the Premier; one, than whom the church of England has no truer son, suspended from his functions in the University which he adorns, and another, whose teaching and example have been worthy of the church catholic in her brightest days, made to feel himself without a name and a home. In view of such evils, can we wonder that there should be a party in the church of England who favor a union of that church with Rome f Before the Reformation, the English church availed itself of the power of the Papacy as a foil against the tyranny of kings and barons; but when the Pope abused his power, it became the obvious dictate of duty to sustain the State in its attitude of resistance. If, however, at this critical juncture, the church conceded too much to the State, and, instead of asserting her just rights, exchanged a spiritual for a temporal usurper, and if the State has since used the concession to the grievous detriment of the church, is it strange that a party should spring up who are disposed, by an alliance with the Papacy, to arrest the encroaching waves of the temporal power? that such a tendency should be manifested in the established church of England ought not, surely, to be a matter of surprise. In this country, however, the case is widely different. The church here has nothing to fear from the State; and that without any prospect of advantage, and with the certainty of losing our most cherished liberties, nay, of extinguishing our very being as a church, we should be led to accept the communion of Rome in its present state, is a supposition too extravagant to be gravely entertained. No: the tendency here, so long as civil government retrains from intermeddling with religion, will probably be in the opposite direction; and Romanists themselves, if kindly treated, will be led, in process of time, to regulate their intercourse with the court of Rome by more ancient and Catholic laws than any which that court would now allow. The writer would deeply regret if any expression in this note, or in the text to which it refers, should be taken as an evidence of an ungrateful or reproachful temper towards the Church of England, or of self-satisfied complacency in the comparative freedom of her American offset. No: the depressed condition of our church before the acknowledgment of our civil independence; the episcopate long refused to our earnest entreaties in accommodation to measures of State policy; our final debt for life to the Scottish Church; the chief boons that we have since received from the lively charity of the English Church withheld until they could be wormed out of the iron bowels of a British Parliament; the Erastian temper still painfully evident in our communion, and the existing relation of our church to the civil government of our country, in regard to marriage and divorce, and other matters of high concernment, are such mementoes as remind us that we have been partakers of a common calamity with our English brethren, and one of which it becomes us to speak in the accents not of reproach, but of humiliation and sorrow.]
For their sakes more than ours. I do not mean for the sake of good and true men among the laity, more than for the sake of good and true men among the clergy; for I believe that good and well instructed men of both orders are actuated by a unity of purpose; but I mean for the sake of the age and of mankind, more than for the sake of good Christians. For all good Christians, and especially the clergy, live for mankind and not for themselves. Their treasure is laid up in heaven; their continuance on earth is short at best, and a few days or a few years more or less is to them a matter of little moment. It has been their lot in all ages to encounter the frowns and persecutions of the world; and if they have borne to be scourged and cast to wild beasts in one age, it is not to be supposed that they will be moved by the threats or experience of poverty and "starvation" in another age. All this is to them a matter of small concern. But it is for the sake of the age and of mankind, and in order to do good in their generation, that they are resolved, at all hazards, to maintain the standard of faith and morals. For it is by this standard that all sound opinions, and right tempers, and safe habits, are formed; and to this standard that men owe all that can impart real happiness in this world, and life everlasting in the world to come. The world will always have some standard of its own. In one age it is the law of honor; in another it is some sanguinary and proscriptive code of the State; and in our day it goes by the name of public opinion! In all ages, however, the standard of the world, so far as is the world's, is merely an exhibition of its own temper; a reflection of its own image. The public opinion of our age and country continues to be, thank God, thus far and to some extent, the product of the Christian standard of faith and morals; and so far it deserves deference and respect. The public opinion of Christendom, so far as it is superior to the public opinion of Pagan and Mohammedan lands, is plainly the product of the Christian standard; and of course in order to be kept pure and elevated, it needs to be continually rectified by the Christian standard. But if public opinion be regarded as itself the supreme standard of faith and morals, and men come to judge of what Christianity is by what the public say of it, it is plain that, as sure as man's nature is corrupt, so sure must we go on sacrificing one principle of Christian faith and morals after another, until every vestige of Christianity is lost, and society is thrown back into a state of infidelity and barbarism. You say that reason is a barrier against error and vice, and a sound rule of order and happiness; and I say the same, only I add that it is not the private reason of every man, but the universal reason of all men, collected in our common and statute law, by which in all fundamental matters, the order and welfare of society are to be preserved. You say that the Bible, which is a light additional to reason, is a guide to order and happiness; and I say the same; only I add that it is not the private interpretation of every Christian, but the universal interpretation of the great body of Christians from the beginning, by which, in all fundamental matters, the order and welfare of the church (and so of society), are preserved. Such an interpretation we profess to have in our Book of Common Prayer; and therefore as a churchman discoursing to churchmen I assume that the Bible, as interpreted by the Prayer Book, is the Christian standard of faith and morals. And I say that by this standard the principles and practices of the age ought to be by us constantly tried and judged. On all questions, then, relating to the faith, to the ministry and sacraments, and for the regulation of our conduct towards those within and those without the church, we are to compare public opinion with the standard of our Bible and Prayer Book, and to pronounce it right or wrong accordingly as it agrees or disagrees with this standard. On all fundamental questions of faith and morals this standard will be found sufficient; and where it fails us, we are still to proceed on the same principles and to yield no more deference to the opinion of the age or country in which we live, than is due to it when compared with the scriptures interpreted by the consent of the universal Church, and especially of the fathers of the Primitive Church who are the nearest and best expounders of the meaning of our Lord and his Apostles. This course will often be unpopular; but this is no disparagement of it to honest Christians, whose life is a constant struggle against the evil tempers and practices of the world. And I warn you, brethren, against being led astray by the clamors that are raised about priestly authority and tradition, and the specious claims that are set up for liberty of thought and unlimited private judgment; and I ask you to consider seriously whether the real end of all this clamor be not to oppose the just authority of Christ's ministers; to unsettle your creeds, to disparage your standard of faith; to undermine the Christian laws and safeguards of a sound public opinion; to erect private fancy in the place of collective wisdom, and in short to deprive you of the liberty of law only to enslave you to the bondage of anarchy. For myself, I ask no higher liberty than is to be found in the service of God and his Church.
Let a man, then, so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. We are the ministers of Christ, to you, set over you in Christ's name, to teach, admonish, rebuke and govern you in spiritual matters agreeably to the Word of God. As ministers of Christ, our authority is from God; and we are responsible to Him, through those who are set over us in the Church, for the faithful discharge of our stewardship. In the exercise of this authority, however, we consent to be governed by all scriptural and equitable laws; and we put it in your power, in case we act unworthily of our office, to have us at any time tried, judged and condemned by canons, the sufficiency of which you yourselves acknowledge. You have, therefore, no reason to be jealous of an authority which submits to the restraints of the collected wisdom of the Church, and is so regulated as to work for edification and not for destruction. We desire to be "your servants, for Jesus' sake," in all things; saving of course our obedience to the faith and the Church of God. These we may not yield; but saving these, there is no service however painful and humiliating which we ought not to be glad to render. We are bound to serve you in the gospel; to preach to you the glad tidings of the kingdom of God; to give you at all times the opportunity of offering to God, in his appointed way, the Christian sacrifice; to advise you in perplexity; to visit you in sickness; to brave for you the pestilence; to administer to you the sacraments; to bury your dead; to be at your beck and call at all times and in all emergencies; to know no difference between the rich and the poor, or if any, to be more ready to serve the poor than the rich; to look for no return of this world's goods, but to count ourselves the pensioners of Divine Providence, and to leave our worldly support wholly to Him; desiring for our own part to watch in all things, to endure afflictions, to make full proof of our ministry, as they who know that the time of their departure is at hand.
Our ministry towards you, my brethren, involves corresponding duties on your part. It is your duty to pray for us and to encourage us in every possible way to the faithful performance of our office, remembering the direction of the Apostle, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do this," i.e., that they may watch for your souls, "with joy and not with grief." Or, as the words have been paraphrased; "Sweeten and allay the irksome labors of your teachers by performing to them all the offices of respect and love, that they may with alacrity, and not with grief, discharge that function, which is of itself a sufficient burthen, without any addition of sorrow from you." [Grotius, as quoted by Bishop Bull.]