IN ST. JOHN'S CHURCH, AT WATERBURY, ON WEDNESDAY,
THE 6TH DAY OF JUNE, A. D. 1821.
Bishop of the Diocess of Connecticut.
PRINTED FOR A. H. MALTBY & CO.
S. M. Dulton, Printer,
MY REVEREND BRETHREN;
WE are now, in the course of Divine Providence, permitted to meet together a second time in annual Convention. At our former meeting, my residence among you had been so short, and my knowledge of the state of the Diocess was so imperfect, that I did not deem it decorous or proper to address you in the way of an official Charge. But since such occasional addresses are required by the Canons of the Church, and sanctioned by immemorial usage, I now proceed to the performance of the duty, with a full reliance on your candour and indulgence.
Many of you are older in the Ministry, and older in years than myself;--some of you have long been the Fathers of the Church in this Diocess:--I cannot, therefore, be expected to advance any thing concerning the duties of the Ministerial Office, or the general doctrines and polity of the Church or even to bring forward any thing of local concern, which has not already occupied your minds. But since it is a duty resulting from the nature of the Episcopal office that I should "put you in remembrance" of [3/4] these things, I doubt not but you will hear me with patience, and give to my suggestions and remarks all the weight which they may be found to deserve.
The leading consideration to which, in the performance of my present duty, I would call your attention, is to keep constantly in view the great object and end of your Ministerial Profession--to induce sinful men to embrace the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, and to build up his Church in the most holy faith.
In the pursuit of this object, my brethren, and for the attainment of this end, it is necessary that you should yourselves be examples of that holiness of life which it is your duty to inculcate upon others. Nothing confounds a man so much as to be judged out of his own mouth, and a guilty conscience will cause the tongue of the most eloquent to falter. No one can "rebuke with all authority," those crimes of which his conscience admonishes him that he is guilty; nor will men bear to be reproved for their vices, by those whom they believe to be equally criminal with themselves. That minister, therefore, who contradicts by his conduct the precepts delivered from his pulpit, can neither be happy in his ministry, nor useful to his people. He becomes a snare to the ignorant, and the scorn of the profane. By his unfaithfulness the wicked are encouraged in their sins, instead of being made ashamed of them; and the pious are grieved at his delinquencies, and kept in a state of perpetual alarm for his conduct.
The Christian Minister must refrain, indeed, from many things which are comparatively innocent, and which would be supposed entirely harmless, if practised by other men. Many things are esteemed lawful for the people, which would be deemed scandalous [4/5] in the Clergy. From them is expected--and justly expected--a greater sanctity of character, and more circumspection of conduct. More renunciations are required of them, and greater abstinence and self-denial. They must spend more time in prayer, and their alms must be more bountiful.--Like a "city set on an hill," and which "cannot be hid," their profession places them on an eminence, where they are regarded with scrutinizing eyes. If they descend from that eminence to mingle in the common scenes of levity and frivolity which surround them, their weakness is regarded as a crime; and the wicked will be ready to plead the authority of their example, when they proceed from amusements comparatively harmless, to more criminal indulgencies.--Let the Minister of Christ, then, "take heed to his ways"--"Giving no offence in any thing, that the Ministry be not blamed; but in all things approving himself as the Minister of God in labours, in watchings, by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the armour of righteousness, upon the right hand, and upon the left."
Next to piety, the qualification most essential to the Christian Minister is knowledge. It is the duty of every Christian to be able to "give an answer to every one that asketh a reason of the hope that is in him." Much more then is it the duty of those who are constituted "Masters in Israel," that they should be able to "bring forth out of their treasures, things new and old." "The Priest's lips should keep knowledge," says the prophet Malachi, "for he is the Messenger of the Lord of Hosts, and the people [5/6] should seek the law at his mouth." Habitual study of the Word of God, therefore, is the indispensable duty of every Minister of Christ. And in prosecuting this study he must avail himself of all those aids which the soundest biblical critics, and the ablest commentators can afford. He must also have an extensive acquaintance with the history of the Church, and especially of the purest ages of it. He must be acquainted with those systems of Theology, which learned men have framed from the sacred scriptures, with the grounds on which they rest; and in an especial manner, he must be thoroughly versed in those scripture authorities, and historical facts, and with the various arguments, by which the distinctive principles of his Church, are supported and defended. It is not enough that he has gone through the regular course of theological instruction, preparatory to his receiving Holy Orders. He is then but just on the threshold of sacred learning. To explore its various departments and prepare the result of his researches for the edification of his people, must constitute no inconsiderable portion of the labours of his life.
It was a precept of a celebrated rhetorician, that "the orator ought to be instructed in all the arts and sciences." The same general knowledge is equally necessary to the Christian Minister. Every thing that can give vigour to his perceptions, clearness to his ideas, or strength to his reasoning; all that tends to enlarge his mind, and increase its capacity for observation and reflection; all that serves to enlarge his acquaintance with the characters, actions, feelings and passions of men; must be useful and necessary to him, whose office it is to guide the human will [6/7] and correct the human heart.--You cannot fail to perceive, then, my brethren, the utility and the duty of cultivating, according to your opportunity and ability, all those branches of human learning, and especially of theological learning, which may render your instructions more intelligible, more acceptable, and more useful to the people of your charge.
If it were necessary to urge any thing further on this topic, I would refer you to the effects of ignorance as they are displayed in the presumption, the errors, and the extravagancies of those untaught and self-constituted teachers who assume to be above the aids of human learning, and cherish the fond conceit that they are acting under the immediate and perceptible influence of the Holy Ghost. You will see such men discuss the most difficult points of theology with the utmost boldness; and decide at once, and with the most perfect confidence, questions which require the deepest research. The popish tenet of infallibility has been supposed to lie at the bottom of much of the bigotry which prevails in that Church. But of all bigots, no one is so confident and intolerant as he who imagines himself the subject of special supernatural illumination. Such men boldly denounce all who dissent from their particular views as mistaken formalists, and suppose themselves capable of imparting new light and knowledge to every misguided flock which may forsake its proper Pastor in quest of novelty.--Imagining themselves to have been the subjects of some special miracle, they become inflated with spiritual pride and self-righteousness. They fancy themselves the peculiar favorites of heaven, and say to those who can make no such pretensions, "stand by thyself; I am holier than [7/8] thou:"--believing the operations of the Holy Spirit to be direct, perceptible and instantaneous, and irresistible, they undervalue and devise the ordinary means of grace. They teach their ignorant followers to look for some special and supernatural out-pouring of the Spirit, and to expect some special miracle to be wrought for their salvation:--and mistaking the suggestions of their own imaginations, for supernatural impulses and impressions, they run into every species of extravagance, superstition, and fanaticism. It is easy to perceive--and you have often had occasion to observe--the confusion and mischief which such men create in a religious community. These results are the natural consequences of ignorance, when heated with enthusiasm. Sound learning is one of the best preservatives against them, and a pious and well informed Clergy can afford the only antidote to the evils they produce.
You thus perceive, my brethren, how essential piety and learning must be to a successful performance of the functions of the Christian Ministry. Let me charge you then to use all diligence so to "frame and fashion yourselves, that you may be wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ;" and also to "be diligent in prayers, and in reading the holy Scriptures, and in such studies as help to the knowledge of the same," so that you may be able "to shew yourselves approved unto God, as workmen that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
Having said thus much upon the qualifications requisite to the due discharge of your ministerial office, let us now turn our thoughts to the manner in which its duties may be most successfully performed.
 By your vows of ordination, you are "to use both public and private monitions and exhortations, as well to the sick as to the whole within your cures, as need shall require, and as occasion shall be given." Let me in the first place, then, call your attention to the utility of these "private monitions and exhortations." Though the humbler part of your ministerial duty, they are not the least useful. By visiting the people of your charge under their own roofs, you become acquainted with their spiritual wants. You can solve their doubts, and clear up their difficulties; and can also learn what will be the most useful topics for your public instructions and exhortations. You may not be able, perhaps, regularly to chatechise the children, on these occasions, yet you will find in such visits, excellent opportunities of imparting to the youth some of the elements of Christian knowledge, and of urging upon them some of the plainest principles of religious duty. To those who have arrived at an age for enquiry, you can give a more full developement of the Christian system. And it will be your indispensable duty to take these occasions to admonish them of the nature of their baptismal covenant, and to call upon them publicly and solemnly to ratify the same, and to regulate their whole lives by its conditions. But your most interesting and useful parochial visits, will be in the scenes of sickness, adversity and affliction. When the heart is softened by distress, it becomes sensible to the impressions of religion. Even obdurate sinners are often subdued by sickness, and I trust you will avail yourselves of every such occasion, to declare to the wicked the necessity of a sincere repentance and a living faith: to lead the wavering into the paths of [9/10] peace; to comfort the penitent with the consolations of the Gospel; and to pour into the willing mind that pious instruction, and seasonable exhortation, which by the aids of divine grace may lead to a more holy life, and become a preparation for a happy eternity. In those domestic visits, among the people of your charge, you can adapt your instructions to their various capacities and situations; and it is by this familiar intercourse, and especially by visiting the bed of sickness and the house affliction, that you acquire the strongest hold upon their affections. It is by such endearing offices that they learn to consider you, as indeed, "the shepherd and pastor of their souls." It is when you thus learn to "call them by their names," that they learn to "know your voice," and become willing to follow your counsels and admonitions with a ready mind.--The Clergyman who neglects these things is not only unfaithful to his flock, but foregoes some of the sweetest consolations attendant on his ministerial duties. Obdurate must be his heart, if he chooses to incur the blame of wilfully neglecting this part of his duty; cold and insensate must be his feelings, if he is indifferent to the affections, as well as the welfare of his people.
In passing from these private duties to your public ministrations, allow me to make a few remarks on the services of the desk and the altar.--It can not have escaped your observation, that there are many persons who consider the Prayers of the Church as the least interesting of her services. Some therefore, are tardy in their attention, others manifest but little appearance of devotion; and if there is to be no sermon or lecture, you can expect but scanty congregations. And yet it should seem to any reflecting [10/11] mind, that the worship of God, should be the great and leading object for which we resort to his holy temple. It was not so much for the purposes of religious instruction as for the worship of Almighty God, and our advancement in piety and devotion, that the Sabbath was instituted, and that Churches have been consecrated. It was not so much that our "outward ear'' might be gratified by an oration from the pulpit, as that we should humbly confess our sins before God, offer our united prayers and supplications at the throne of his grace, present unto him our thanksgiving and praise for his mercies, commemorate the dying love of his dear Son, and seek and find that spiritual comfort, and that assisting grace, of which these services are the proper and appointed means.
The fault which we thus deprecate, is not occasioned by any inherent defect in our Liturgy. In part, it may have been inherited from our Puritanic ancestors; who in their zeal for reformation, were disposed to recede as far as possible from the Church of Rome; and accounting as mere formality that appearance of deep devotion which characterized her worship, were led to undervalue this most essential part of divine service, and exalt the service or the pulpit to an undue pre-eminence. The fault thus contracted, is fostered by our natural indolence, which inclines us to listen with complacency to the eloquence of the preacher, but is averse to that exertion of mind, which is necessary when we take an active part in the service of the sanctuary. But, nay brethren, may not the fault sometimes be occasioned, or at least fostered, by the defective and imperfect manner in which the service is performed? Some clergymen, from a mistaken idea of solemnity, [11/12] fall into a drawling, canting mode of reading: some appear cold, negligent, and indifferent; others, from a vitiated fancy for emphasis and point, adopt an affected, and theatrical manner. It is difficult to attain perfection in performing the service of the Church, but these gross faults may be easily avoided. The best direction I am able to give you on this subject is, to keep constantly in mind the nature of the office in which you are engaged. Bear in mind that you are in the house of God, and that you are addressing that great Being, who is worshipped in heaven by angels and archangels--who declares that he will be worshipped "in spirit and in truth," and who knoweth the very thoughts of your hearts. Bear in mind that your voice is the voice of the assembled congregation--that you present their penitential confessions, their fervent supplications, and their grateful thanksgivings before God; and that as ambassadors of Christ you declare the divine forgiveness and mercy to all who sincerely confess and renounce their sins. It is a station of awful responsibility, and its functions are the most solemn and affecting that a human being can perform. If you enter into the spirit of your office, then; if you catch that humble, grateful, solemn feeling it should inspire; you can hardly fail to perform its duties in that impressive and affecting manner which shall give to them their due effect. You will avoid that frigid monotony, which a mistaken idea of humility and sanctity sometimes produces, not less than that more offensive affectation, and straining for effect, which is the off spring of false taste and a want of proper feeling. You will acquire a chastened, impressive, recollected ardor, equally removed from the languor of indifference [12/13] on the one hand, and the extravagance of enthusiasm on the other.
I pass from the service of the desk and the altar, to the service of the pulpit; and, here, the same sense of your station will dictate to you a like propriety of manner. You will be grave, from a sense of the importance of your subjects, earnest from a desire to impress them on the minds of your hearers, and affectionate from the relation in which you stand to them. It is only in relation to the matter of your public instructions, therefore, that I can have any thing to add.
You are preachers of the Gospel. It should be your principal object then, to lay before your people its distinctive principles. These are briefly, the natural depravity of man, the atonement of the Saviour, the renovation of the heart by the graces of the Holy Spirit, and the necessity of a living faith, a sincere repentance, and a willing obedience to the divine commands. And in inculcating these doctrines, you will do well to follow the simplicity of the Gospel; avoiding those additions, and metaphysical subtleties which the lovers of systems have incorporated with the dogmas of their theology. In this respect, the formularies of our Church afford us an excellent example. In her articles, as well as in the general tenor of her services, she has preserved a moderation, and manifested a strict conformity to scripture simplicity, which are equally removed from the scholastic refinements of the Romish Doctors, and the metaphysical subtleties of more modern systems.
On the subject of human depravity, the Schoolmen had taught that "the soul of man, notwithstanding the fall, continues pure and unvitiated: the loss [13/14] of original righteousness being the loss, not of a con-natural duality of the mind, but merely of an unessential ornament," and that he is therefore, by his own unassisted efforts, able to deserve the grace of God, "of congruity." The modern followers of St. Austin, on the other hand, represent fallen man rather as a fiend than as a human being. They describe him as "wholly averse to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil;" so that he is utterly unable, even to co-operate with the Holy Spirit in the work of his conversion.--Our Church declares that man is "very far gone from original righteousness," without attempting accurately to define the limits or the extent of his depravity; while she magnifies the efficacy of divine grace, by declaring that he has no natural power to do good works acceptable to God without the assistance of his Spirit.
Equally moderate and evangelical are the other doctrines of the Church. She does not limit the benefits of the Saviour's atonement to a few arbitrarily elected individuals, but considers it, in consonance with the language of scripture, as a "propitiation for the sins of the whole world." And in her doctrine of the dispensation of divine grace, she does not impugn the free mercy of God, by maintaining its saving influences to be restricted to a certain elect number; nor does she destroy the freedom and accountability of man by declaring those influences to be irresistible, and indefectible. She represents the grace of God, as given to "every man, to profit withal," but not compulsive upon any; and she consequently calls upon all men not to "resist," or to "quench" it, but to co-operate with it, in the great work of their salvation, These doctrines;--the natural [14/15] depravity of man, and the way of salvation by the atonement of the Redeemer, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, constitute the foundation of the Christian system. To preach them as they are contained in the Scriptures, and set forth by the Church, must be the leading object of your ministry. But they are always to be preached in connection with those religious and moral duties which God has enjoined on us. Holiness of heart; piety to God, and benevolence to man; with all the social and relative duties of life, must be constantly enforced, and earnestly inculcated, as the necessary fruits of a living faith in the way of salvation. What God has done for man, and what he requires of him, must equally and unitedly constitute the subjects of your preaching; nor are you to be withheld from the first, from an apprehension of being thought too evangelical, nor deterred from the last, from the fear of being stigmatized as mere moral preachers. Brethren, "it is a small matter to be judged of men; to your own Master you must stand or fall."
In your public ministrations, it will become your duty to defend the faith of the Church against "all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's word." It is a delicate duty, and will require no less of prudence than of Christian charity for its successful performance.--There are some errors so gross that it may be best to confront and attack them openly and directly; but, in general, errors are most succesfully refuted by the establishment of the truth. It is difficult to persuade men, when you publicly and professedly set out to confute them. The moment you declare war against their doctrine, they place themselves on their guard, and feel themselves engaged [15/16] by their pride and self-love to defend it. But when you "give a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;" when men see that you are "contending for the truth," rather than for victory; they will hear you without hostility, if not without prejudice. While, then, you bear in mind that a proselyting spirit is not the spirit of the Church, and are careful that the temper of the world mix not itself with your zeal for sound doctrine; while you refrain from usurping the prerogative of God, in judging your brethren, and attempt not to prescribe to the divine justice, whom it shall exclude from divine mercy, you are bound by your vows of ordination, as well as by your regard for "the truth as it is in Jesus," to contend zealously for this truth, and to use all proper means to reclaim men from error, and lead them into those paths where they may meet together "in the unity of the spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life."
In this spirit, my brethren, and on these principles, it will be your duty on all proper occasions, to hold up to view the distinctive principles of your Church. This is a privilege freely exercised by other denominations of Christians; and one which we freely concede to them. It is not unreasonable then, that we require the like privilege in return. Indeed, it is only by free declaration of the truth, and a zealous defence of it, that it can ever be propagated, or even maintained.
It is by these means that the Episcopal Church in Connecticut has acquired her growth. A century ago, she numbered not more than eighty families within the state. She can now count as many regularly organized congregations. And during this time [16/17] she has had almost every thing to retard her prosperity, and no single circumstance to advance it, except the excellency of her principles, and the frank avowal, and firm support of them. Were she to cease from this course, situated as she is in the midst of a respectable, and much larger denomination of Christians, she would soon cease to exist. Her Clergy, as well as the Laity, would soon become ignorant of her peculiar doctrines, and then indifferent to her distinctive character. Under these circumstances, there would be nothing to counteract that universal law of nature by which smaller bodies gravitate towards larger ones, and the Church would soon be merged in those religious communities with which she is surrounded.
Loving your Church, then, my brethren, and attached to her distinctive principles from a conscientious conviction of their excellency and importance, you will not think you have faithfully discharged your duties to your flocks, unless they are fully instructed in them. Nor will you be deterred by any false delicacy from publicly avowing, and firmly defending these distinctive principles, whenever it may be done with propriety and advantage. In pursuing this course, you will not be led of necessity to make any direct and gross attack upon the sentiments of other religious denominations: the simple display of truth is generally the best antidote to error. Much less will you feel yourselves called upon to impugn the motives--the sincerity or the piety--of those who may conscientiously differ from you. By the manifestation of a christian temper, and the exercise of a judicious moderation, you will evince to the world that you are not merely contending for the [17/18] dogma of a sect, but for essential doctrines of that "faith once delivered to the saints."
Liberality of sentiment, upon religious subjects, is amiable and commendable in the sight of all men; and is moreover a high christian duty. But there is an erroneous principle which usurps its name, and which would confound all distinction between truth and error. This spurious liberality pretends to consider as of no importance all those varieties of opinion which prevail among different religious denominations, and seems to demand that we should regard with equal estimation the widely differing creeds of all who profess the christian name. Such a latitudinarian principle, if carried to its full extent, would go to the utter destruction of Christianity itself. There is one denomination which rejects its external ordinances; and another which obliterates its most distinctive features--the divinity and atonement of the Saviour. Deprive Christianity of these characteristics, and there is but little to distinguish it from modern Deism.
This false liberality arises, in a great degree, from a mistaken application of Christian charity;--from extending to errors themselves, that indulgence which belongs of right only to the persons who have unwarily and honestly fallen into them. Some very pious men have leaned too much towards this mistaken charity, from a vain desire of abolishing sectarian distinctions, and producing a greater harmony among the various denominations who profess a common christianity. But many of those who declaim most loudly in praise of liberality, and are the most zealous advocates of union, entertain no thought of giving up their own peculiar sentiments:--[18/19] they merely wish others to adopt them. When brought to the test, it will appear that they expect all the concession from others, and consider the ground on which they stand themselves, as the only proper basis for a union.
It were much to be wished, indeed, that there might be no diversity in the faith of christians; since there is but one Gospel, and one Saviour. But while men remain fallible and erring, as they are at present, such a consummation is not to be expected. An enlightened charity, therefore, will not exhaust itself in futile attempts to abolish the differences of opinion which prevail among the different denominations of christians, but will rather direct its efforts to the promotion of a true and legitimate liberality of sentiment. It will seek to make them "kindly affectioned one towards another," and incite them to a mutual toleration of each others peculiar opinions. In the spirit of that law which requires us to "do unto others whatsoever we would that they should do to us," it will call upon every man, freely to concede to others, all that liberty of conscience which he requires for himself. Such "long-suffering and forbearing one another in love," will have a surer tendency to unite christians together "in the bond of peace," than any hasty combinations of discordant elements. In this temper, we shall not be disposed to magnify trivial distinctions among christians; and earnestly endeavouring ourselves "to keep the unity of the Spirit," shall "grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that, which every joint supplieth, according to the [19/20] effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
With regard, then, to our union with other religious denominations, we may cordially associate and co-operate with them in all secular affairs,--in all humane, literary, and charitable objects: nor should differences of faith create any difficulties in the way of social intercourse and good neighbourhood, but in objects purely religious, we can form no union, with other denominations with which we are surrounded, without either abandoning important principles, or incurring, if we adhere to them, the imputation of sectarian bigotry. While, therefore, we concede to others the same right, let us pursue our religious and. ecclesiastical affairs according to the regulations and institutions of our Church, without any mistaken attempts to compromise, in matters of conscience. Nor let us think that we are violating any principle of christian charity when we freely avow and firmly maintain our distinctive principles.
The first and most essential of these distinctive principles is, that there were instituted in the Church, by Christ and the Apostles, three distinct grades of Ministers, with the exclusive power of ordination in the first grade; that the Ministry thus constituted has been continued, by succession, to the present day; and that no man or body of men possesses the right to alter what was thus established. With regard to this principle there can be no compromise. It must be inscribed on the banners under which you are enrolled, and maintained by an appeal to those passages of scripture, and a reference to those historical [20/21] authorities by which it is so fully established. The support of this principle is at all times important, but you are more especially called upon to maintain it at the present period, when the errors and extravagancies of ignorant and self-appointed teachers, threaten to destroy all reverence and regard for the sanctity of the ministerial office.
The circumstances of the times, also, call upon you to be faithful in explaining and inculcating just ideas of the nature of the Christian Church. The fashionable liberality of the day would require us to regard every self-constituted society, or every assembly professing itself to be Christian, as as a regularly and duly organized Church of Christ. Such, however, is not the language of scripture. The Church is there styled the "body of Christ," and "Christ is not divided." "There is but one body, and one spirit; one Lord, one faith, and one baptism." Christians are required "to speak the same thing," and to "be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment." Divisions were not regarded by the apostles as matters of little moment, and when the Corinthian converts, in their dissentions, began to arrange themselves under the party names of Paul, of Apollos, or of Cephas, they were severely rebuked by the great Apostle of the Gentiles, and warned "that there should be no schism in the body." The sin of schism is no less henious now than it was in the days of the Apostles and it will be your duty, as occasion may offer, to unfold and display the true character of the Christian Church, as a divinely constituted society;--a body which all men are required to be members, and [21/22] which no man may rend asunder;--and to explain the true principle of church unity, by the essential bond of a regularly constituted ministry.
At a period too, when very crude and erroneous ideas prevail, concerning direct, perceptible, and irresistible operations of the Spirit of God upon the hearts of men, it becomes your duty, not only to declare the necessity of this grace to enable men to work out their salvation, but to explain what are the true means which God has provided for conveying the gracious influences of his spirit. You will explain the nature and efficacy of the solemn sacrament of Baptism, by which we are first brought into a state of regeneration, and dedicated to the Divine Spirit--by which we are incorporated into that spiritual body, the Church, of which Christ is the head, to which the Holy Spirit is freely communicated, and to which all the promises of the Gospel are tendered. You will teach the obligation and the utility of the rite of Confirmation, as a sign of God's grace and goodness to his youthful disciples. In an especial manner, you will inculcate the efficacy of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, as a gracious mean by which he conveys to his Church the renewing influences of the Holy Ghost. And you will also enforce the duty of prayer, and pious reflection; of reading, hearing, and meditating on the word of God, as appointed and salutary means of grace.
He only who lives in the diligent and faithful use of these appointed means of grace, conforms to the plan of salvation laid down in the Gospel: these are the only revealed modes of communication (since miracles have ceased) between earth and heaven; and he who thus seeks God, in the services of his Church, and seeks him in sincerity, will find that his "labour will not be in vain in the Lord."
Brethren, I have yet much to say, but I fear that I have already trespassed upon your patience. I would therefore close, by once more pressing upon you the consideration with which I commenced this discourse:--keep constantly in view the great object and end of your ministry--to persuade sinful men to embrace the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, and to build up his Church in the most holy faith.
You are "stewards of the mysteries of God:"--see then that you be "found faithful." You are Ministers of a true and apostolic Church:--"Keep that which is committed to your charge."--Do you ask, "who is sufficient for these things?" "You know in whom you have believed"--"his strength will be sufficient for you."--What though your labours be arduous and manifold? "They that turn many to righteousness, shall shine as the stars, forever and ever"!--"Nothing," says St. Austin, "can be more laborious, more difficult, or more awfully responsible, than the Ministry of the Gospel; but nothing can be more blessed, if we do our duty according to the commandment of the Lord."