Haven, on Wednesday, the 6th of June, A.D. 1832.
MY REVEREND BRETHREN:
IT is now eleven years since I delivered my primary charge to the clergy of this diocese,--being then in the second year of my episcopate. In the intervening period, many events have occurred to chequer the aspect of the church. Several of our revered fathers, to whom we looked for counsel and support, have been called by their divine master to render the account of their ministries. Some of our brethren have been called away to stations of usefulness in other portions of the church. Still we have abundant reason to bless God for the mercies he has vouchsafed to us, and for the general prosperity that prevails within our borders. Though some few parishes, in the diocese, have declined, for the want of religious services, or from other causes, yet in the great body of the church there has been a steadily increasing current of outward prosperity, and, I trust, of vital godliness. Many of the parishes have been greatly enlarged; several new parishes have been established; and the number of our clergy has nearly doubled since I was first called to the charge of the diocese. Brethren, if we have been graciously permitted by God to co-operate in the building up of his church, let us constantly bear in mind that it is as his instruments and servants, and that all the increase is the result of his blessing on our labors.
Since my former charge, it has frequently been my intention to address you again in a similar way, but the annual communications which I have made to you, in convention, have been deemed a compliance with the provisions of the canon, and have embraced most of the topics to which I wished to direct your attention. Under the present circumstances of the church, I have thought it advisable again to address you more largely, and in the more formal manner of a charge.
In recurring to my primary charge, I have the satisfaction to find that the views of clerical duty, which I then contemplated for myself and commended to you, still approve themselves to my judgment and conscience. I believe they have received the general approbation of the clergy of the diocese. Taking them as our principles of action, we have been permitted to see the cause of our divine master prosper in our hands. The church has been strengthened and enlarged; we have been blessed with peace among ourselves, and have enjoyed a good degree of harmony with our christian brethren of other communions. I trust the experience of the past will induce us to persevere in the same course of christian duty.
Brethren, "we are ambassadors for Christ." As such, I cannot employ the present occasion more appropriately than by calling your [3/4] attention to a consideration of the means by which we may best fulfil the ministries with which we are entrusted. In doing this, I shall have a special regard to the circumstances of the times in which we live.
The great objects of the christian ministry are ever the same--to convert sinners to the faith and practice of christianity, and, to build up the church of Christ in the most holy faith. The most efficacious means by which these objects are to be effected, have been prescribed to us by the Saviour himself, in his commission to preach his gospel and administer his sacraments. For subordinate means, we must look to the example of the apostles, and to the practice of the church in the purest ages.
Various new methods have been devised in our day, for the promotion of religion. One novelty gives place to another; and means of christian edification, which are now deemed of the highest importance, may shortly be considered as utterly futile, or even regarded as devices of Satan. By the good providence of God, the church to which we belong is little subject to the fluctuations which we observe in the religious world around us. By the excellent provisions of her liturgy and discipline, her clergy are preserved in the "old paths" which were trodden by the apostles and primitive martyrs, and which were subsequently followed by the divines of the reformation. The celebration of public worship, the preaching of the word, the administration of the sacraments, the familiar instruction of the young, together with private admonition, advice and consolation, these are the means of promoting religious edification in the church, and these are the means which, by our vows of ordination, we bind ourselves to employ. These means have long been owned and blessed by the great head of the church, and through their instrumentality thousands, in every age, have been rec1aimed from the dominion of sin, to a life of righteousness.
In the earlier period of christianity, indeed, it was the more especial object to make known the principles of the christian faith; and this was effected mainly by the instrumentality of preaching. But in countries blessed with the knowledge of christianity, our great object is to induce men to embrace its overtures of mercy, and live in obedience to its precepts. To accomplish these ends, we must resort to all the means of religious influence which are sanctioned by scripture, or which the experience of the church commends to our adoption. We must not, however, mistake the various schemes of religious enthusiasts--whatever importance may be attached to them by their visionary projectors, and however they may appear--to be recommended by a partial and ephemeral success--we must not mistake these for measures sanctioned by the experience of the church. In calling your attention to the best means of promoting the religious edification of your several flocks, I shall have occasion to urge upon you no measures but such as are of ordinary use in the communion to which we belong.
 Public worship is one of the most effectual methods of fixing in the minds of men, a permanent sense of their dependence on the Supreme Being, and is therefore regarded by the church as among the primary means of religious improvement. It is founded on a true apprehension of the perfect nature of God; of the jurisdiction he holds over us, by his right of creation, and by his dispensations of providence and grace; and on a deep feeling of the obligations we owe to him for all his mercies. Its design is to make a visible confession of our dependence on him, and a public recognition of all the obligations under which he has laid us. The acts of outward homage which we render to him;--the confessions we make, the supplications we offer, and the praises and thanksgivings we present to him,--these are designed as the expression of the inward homage and adoration which we are bound to cherish in our hearts. They import a deep impression of his awful majesty, a grateful sense of the favors we have received from him, a conviction of our entire dependence on his mercy, and a cheerful submission to all the allotments of his providence.
The church is the house of God--the place on earth of his more immediate presence; and he has graciously promised that where two or three are gathered together in his name, he will be in the midst of them. It is in the public-worship of the sanctuary that the "beauty of holiness" appears in its true loveliness. Nothing can be more animating than to behold a congregation of pious worshippers, laying aside all the adventitious distinctions of life, and uniting with one heart and one voice in the presentation of their prayers and thanksgivings to God, in the fervent offices of our liturgy. The flame of devotion is kindled from heart to heart. Lively and salutary impressions of faith; hope, and charity are excited and fixed in the mind; and the religious worship of the church on earth constitutes one of the best means of preparation for an union with the church-triumphant in heaven. Brethren, it is one of your most interesting duties to conduct the public devotions of the people of your charge. Let me exhort you to perform this duty with simplicity and godly sincerity--in the true spirit of those venerable offices of devotion which the wisdom and piety of the church have placed in your hands. It has been sometimes uncharitably imputed to us that we use the liturgy as a mere form of words, without considering their meaning or feeling their force. The imputation, erroneous as it is, should be an admonition to us always to guard against the wandering of our thoughts, and to concentrate the best faculties of our understanding; and the warmest affections of our heart, on the devout offices which we repeat. Reading the liturgy under such impressions, and with such feelings, you will be preserved alike from the appearance of indifference and from affected sanctity; from monotony, and from extravagance; and you will adopt a simplicity and fervency of manner, which is the natural dictate of the heart that would worship God in spirit and in truth.
 We have abundant reason to be thankful that the- good providence of God has provided our church with a liturgy so admirably adapted to christian edification and devotion. It is so complete as a whole, and so perfectly arranged in all its parts, that whoever shall deviate from the rubrics, which prescribe the order in which it shall be used, must be no less deficient in judgment and good taste, than he is unfaithful to his obligations as a minister of the church. But it will not be sufficient that you hold the liturgy in reverent estimation yourselves. It will be your duty, from time to time, to instruct your congregations, as well in regard to its general excellency, as in relation to the import of its several offices; that they may be prepared duly to worship God with the understanding and with the heart. Especially it will be your duty to guard them against the common fault of exalting the instructions of the pulpit above the services of the desk. Divine worship is a primary object of our assembling in the house of God. Religious instruction is a subsidiary, though an important concern. But he who listens with attention and due reverence, will find much of christian edification, as well as devotion, in the exhortations, prayers, praises; and portions of scripture, which compose the liturgy.
Religious knowledge, and enlightened devotion, are intimately connected. The gospel is declared by St. Paul to be the wisdom of God, and the power of God unto salvation, unto all who receive it; and the preaching of this gospel is the leading object embraced in the commission of Christ to his ministers. The great design of this dispensation, is the recovery of man from that state of sin and misery into which he was precipitated by the apostacy of our first parents, and his restoration to the favor of God, and to everlasting life. The means by which these all important ends are accomplished are fully revealed in the gospel; and, as the ambassadors of Christ, it is one of the great objects of your ministry to make them known to men, in such a way that they may be disposed to embrace them. "He that believeth; and is baptized, shall be saved: and he that believeth not shall he damned." How momentous, then, is the trust committed to you! you are ministers of eternal life, or of eternal death! As the stewards of such a mystery, well do the scriptures require that you be found faithful. See, then, that you preach this message of salvation as God has revealed it, and as the church to which you belong has received it. Shrink not from declaring the whole counsel of God, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear: and refrain from mingling with it any of the traditions or devices of men, however popular they may be, or however plausible they may appeal'.
As members of the Protestant Episcopal Church, we believe that her articles and formularies present a correct view of the true doctrines of the gospel. That they do so, is generally conceded by all the orthodox denominations of christians in our country. But we are sometimes charged with holding these doctrines subject to some [6/7] mental reservation, and of really entertaining erroneous and defective views of the great doctrines of the cross. I feel assured that this charge, as applied to the clergy of our church at the present time, is utterly erroneous and groundless. In retracing the history of the church of England, we may perhaps find a period, when the discourses of her divines were directed too exclusively to the enforcing of social obligations: partly because they considered the peculiar doctrines of the gospel to be generally understood, but chiefly because the sectarian preachers were accustomed to dwell exclusively on high points of faith, to the neglect, and often to the disparagement, of the common duties of life. It may be that the imputation in question has been handed down from these times, in the traditions of dissenters, and transferred from our parent church to our own. But however we may feel the injustice of the reproach, it will ultimately be put to shame, if we continue faithfully to preach the great doctrines of grace and salvation through Jesus Christ; and if, when we are called upon to inculcate the relative duties of life, we enforce them by christian motives, and christian sanctions.
The whole economy of the gospel supposes mankind to be, by nature, in a state of sin and guilt; subject to the just displeasure of God, and utterly incapable of extricating themselves from misery by their own unassisted powers. This fact constitutes the basis of the scheme of salvation unfolded in the scriptures, and the foundation of all our efforts to seek the mercy of God, through the merits of the Redeemer. It should be faithfully set forth, and enforced, by every minister of Christ.
The fall of our first parents, the corruption of all their moral powers, and the transmission of this fallen and corrupt nature to all their posterity, is fully recognized in the formularies of our church. She does not indeed express her views of the condition of human nature, by the phrase "total depravity." She does not maintain with Calvin, that man is wholly averse to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil. But her language on this subject is explicit, and comes fully up to the representations of scripture: "Original sin is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, that is naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is, in his own nature, inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit." And again: "We have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will."--This is in consonance with the language of holy writ: "Behold I was shapen in iniquity," says David, "and in sin did my mother conceive me." "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing," says St. Paul: "for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good, I find not. For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is [7/8] present with me." We are, then, naturally inclined to evil, and there is no health in us. If any man think otherwise, or preach another doctrine, it should seem to me that he has little knowledge of mankind or of his own heart, and is still more ignorant of the import of the scriptures.
But though it is our duty faithfully to preach the natural depravity of man, it is-our blessed privilege also to preach the general redemption from guilt and punishment, purchased by the atoning blood of Christ. This atonement is regarded by our church as "a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world." According to the Calvinistic belief, the atonement of Christ is partial, and limited exclusively to the elect. The rest of mankind are regarded as predestinated to everlasting misery; deriving no benefit from the propitiatory blood of a Saviour, and placed beyond the reach of the saving mercies of God. And upon this foundation of a limited atonement is built the theory of sovereign and unconditional election and reprobation. It is indeed remarkable that any speculative system of theology should have been framed, embracing a view of God's dispensations so derogatory to his attributes, so inconsistent with the admonitions and calls to repentance which the scriptures address to all mankind, and, so directly opposed to the express declarations of the sacred writers: "As by the offence of one man," says St. Paul--"as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." "We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man."--"He is the propitiation for our sins," says St. John, "and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world:"
But, brethren, while you set forth, in their full extent, these glad tidings of the gospel, you will be careful constantly to keep in view the distinction between an universal redemption, and the actual salvation of all mankind. Though the atonement of the Saviour has placed all men in a state in which they maybe saved; on performing the conditions which God requires of them, and has procured for them those aids of divine grace, which are necessary to enable them to perform these conditions, yet none can actually be saved but those who repent of their sins, believe in Christ, and fully embrace the plan of salvation revealed in the Gospel. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned." This is the revelation of that great decree of election and reprobation, which has been made by the Son of God to mankind. "This is the import of that doctrine of predestination, which, in the language of our church, is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed; by his counsel, secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he bath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring then by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honor."
 The points of doctrine peculiar to the Calvinistic system of theology, are the total depravity of man, unconditional election and reprobation, irresistible grace and instantaneous conversion, and the certain perseverance of the saints. These peculiarities are not set forth in the thirty-nine articles of our church. Indeed they have been greatly modified by most of the Calvinistic communions in our country. But these doctrines, and their modifications, are commonly held in connexion with the fundamental principles of the gospel; and we must be especially careful not to confound religious truths, with the metaphysical errors of human systems of theology: The speculative systems of men may stand or fall by their merits, and are not to be received as unerring standards of Christian faith. But the pure word of God is an infallible rule of faith and duty, and the way of salvation by the cross of Christ, which it reveals; is not to be placed to the credit of any master of theology, nor considered as the exclusive possession of any religious sect.
Brethren, in explaining and enforcing the doctrines of the gospel, you will do well to be explicit on those points, concerning which the sentiments of the church are most frequently misrepresented. This is due alike to the: cause of truth, and to the character of the church. There is a vulgar prejudice that all Arminians, and especially Episcopalians, expect to be saved by their own works. You know that nothing can be more; erroneous than such an opinion, and yet you must be aware that it prevails to a considerable extent, among the more ignorant of other communions. The doctrine of the church is very clear and express upon this point: "We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings." I believe this doctrine is faithfully preached, and universally received in the church. By steadfastly persevering in its maintenance, we may hope that its practical influence may be more fully impressed on ourselves, and that ultimately we may remove the prejudices of others.
Intimately connected with the prejudice just referred to, is the kindred error that Episcopalians believe in the inherent capacity of man to work out his own salvation, without any aid or co-operation of the Holy Spirit. And yet this imputation is expressly contradicted by our tenth article: "The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself; by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God." This is entirely in accordance with the Scriptures. St. Paul declares that "We are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God." He instructs us that we are "led by the spirit;'' and that we are "strengthened with might by the spirit, in the inner man."--Our church does not maintain that the saving influences of the Holy Spirit are dispensed to the elect alone; but she holds, with the Apostle, that this grace "is given to every man, to profit withal," and that it is given in a sufficient measure to [9/10] enable every man to labor effectually in the work of his salvation, if be do not perversely resist; or quench it. She does not maintain that man has no concern nor concurrence in the work of his salvation, and that he is moved by the divine Spirit, as an involuntary machine. God having made us rational and accountable creatures, deals with us in a way conformable to our natures, and the salutary influences of his Holy Spirit combine with the voluntary operations of our own minds. This too is in consonance with the doctrine of the Apostle:--"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
There is yet another prejudice, still more injurious than those to which I have adverted. We are accused of believing in no other change of heart, than that which is effected in baptism. It is probable that we ascribe more importance and efficacy to the sacrament of baptism, than is now usually attached to it by our brethren of other communions, and that we also entertain somewhat different views concerning the operations of divine grace in the conversion of the sinner. But I imagine the charge in question is chiefly based on a misapprehension of the meaning of a word. In our liturgy, regeneration is always spoken of as connected with baptism. But this is rather in reference to a change of spiritual condition, than a change in the moral qualities and affections of the heart. The term is used to denote that mutation which takes place when a person is translated, by baptism, from the society of the world, to a state of covenant relationship with God; from the natural state in Adam, to the spiritual state in Christ. This too is the sense in which the word is used by St. Paul; who expressly denominates baptism, "the washing of regeneration." In this sense the word was used by all christian writers, till the times of the reformation. Since that period, the figurative application of the word has been extended, so as to denote the change of heart which takes place, in the conversion of a sinner. The popular idea of regeneration, at the present day, I believe, is an instantaneous change from sin to holiness, wrought in the heart and affections by the irresistible influence of the Holy Ghost, and without any concurrence or co-operation on the part of the sinner himself. Without stopping to consider the correctness of this idea, it is obvious that it is very different from the sense affixed to the word in our baptismal office, and in the office of confirmation; and the charge referred to may be successfully refuted by a mere reference to our established usage of what has now become an equivocal word.
That our church recognizes the doctrine of a change of heart, in its proper acceptation, there can be no doubt, in the mind of any one acquainted with her standards of faith. Baptism is denominated "an outward visible sign of an inward spiritual grace." The "renewing of the Holy Ghost," the inward spiritual grace, is deemed no less essential to salvation than the outward symbol, "the washing of regeneration." No person who lives in a state of deliberate and [10/11] habitual sin, (whether he has been baptized, or not,) has the least reason to hope for salvation, without repentance and conversion; and no sinner can repent and turn to God, without the assistance of his Spirit. Even those who live in constant communion with Christ, "being regenerate and made his children by adoption and grace," are taught to pray "that they may daily be renewed by the Holy Spirit."
I believe there is no christian denomination in our country, more faithful than our on, in maintaining the necessity of a radical and thorough change of nature; a change in the natural dispositions and affections of the heart, and in the habits and conduct of the life. On this point, then, I trust that you will clearly set forth the doctrines of the church, which unquestionably are the doctrines of scripture, and that you will admonish the people of your charge, that they "put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts; that they be renewed in the spirit of their mind; and that they put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
As in the administration of baptism, we receive the seal of our admission to a covenant relationship with Christ, so in the sacrament of the Lord's supper we continually renew our recognition of that covenant. Both the sacraments are designed to keep us in perpetual remembrance of our religious obligations, and also to be tokens and pledges to us of the love and favor of God. Nor are they the mere tokens of spiritual blessings which God will confer on his faithful children, but they are themselves, means and instruments of grace and salvation. As the body participates with the soul, in our moral acts, so it becomes likewise a partaker with it in the religious acts designed for our sanctification: and as both body and soul must be happy or miserable together, in a future state, so the providence of God has ordered that they shall both participate in the means of salvation, in the present world. All this is implied in the scriptural view of "the washing away of sin," in baptism, and in "the communion of the body and blood of Christ," in the holy eucharist.
Brethren, it is a peculiar function of your office to administer these holy sacraments; and you will find, in the performance of this duty, one of the most salutary means of promoting the religious edification of the congregations committed to, your charge. You will be careful to represent them according to their true import and design:--not as mere ceremonies conducive to the order and union of the church; much less as possessing any inherent efficacy to confer grace, without a suitable disposition in the recipient; but as being, to those who receive them worthily, "certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good will towards us, by which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our faith in him."
 The religious instruction of the young constitutes a peculiarly interesting department of ministerial duty. If we see many youth grow up in habits of dissipation and vice; regardless of the well-being of society, disobedient to parents, and unmindful of their duties to their God, the cause of the evil may generally be traced to a neglect of their religious education, or to the erroneous views under which religion has been presented to their minds. "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it." It is one of the peculiar excellences of the church to which we belong, that she has' provided a form of instruction for her youthful members, no less admirable for its scriptural simplicity, than for its comprehensive import. It contains all that it is most desirable for youth to know; an explanation of the nature of their christian covenant, with the obligations it imposes, and the privileges it confers; a short syllabus of the christian faith; the summary of religious duties enjoined in the decalogue, with the concentration of the spirit of them in the two precepts of the Saviour; and a brief instruction in the duty of prayer, and the nature of the sacraments. Such are the subjects of the catechism. It is provided by the rubric, that every minister shall, on Sundays or other suitable occasions, instruct the children of his parish in this catechism; and parents and guardians are required to lend their co-operation in this laudable work. The general establishment of Sunday Schools has relieved the clergy from much of the labor of catechetical instruction, but not from the responsibility of seeing that the instruction is duly and judiciously communicated. I regard the establishment of Sunday Schools as one of the most important improvements in the religious education of children. By it the course of instruction prescribed by the church is greatly extended; the young people, who lend their beneficent aid in the labor of. instruction, are the more deeply impressed with their own religious duties, while inculcating those duties on others; and the children themselves are the more surely attracted to the house of God, and by being associated together in the acquisition of religious knowledge; become the more emulous to excel, in whatsoever things are amiable, lovely, and of good report.
The ordinary Sunday School education is completed at a period peculiarly important in the life of young people. It is the period when the habits are forming, and when their moral and religious characters are usually fixed for life. At this interesting period, the young demand the especial care of their spiritual pastors. The wisdom of the church has provided for this crisis by the course of religious instruction which should precede the holy rite of confirmation. It is the duty of the clergy to see that the youth of their parishes are prepared for this solemn rite, by a full course of instruction, as well in regard to the special import of their baptismal engagements, as in relation to the general principles and duties of the christian religion. The organization and instruction of bible classes is a very successful method of discharging [12/13] this duty. The youth are thus incited to a careful study of the holy scriptures, while they are assisted in their efforts by the colloquial expositions and familiar lectures of their pastors. Experience has shown, indeed, that this method of instruction is particularly interesting to all classes; and I have generally found the religious state of those parishes the most encouraging, where this method of instruction has been zealously pursued.
It is another advantage of these familiar lectures, that they present suitable occasions, and afford peculiar facilities, for explaining and enforcing the distinctive principles of our church. Surrounded as we are by different denominations of christians, who are constantly inculcating their peculiar tenets, it is especially important that churchmen should be thoroughly acquainted with the principles they profess, and the reasons on which they are grounded. The points of doctrine, concerning which most of the christian denominations dissent from us, are regarded by them as matters of minor importance. But the great question of the source and derivation of ministerial authority, concerning which we differ from them, is esteemed by us as a fundamental principle of the gospel, in relation to which we can make no compromise, without a violation of conscience. We presume not to judge others: to their own master they stand or fall. For ourselves we believe it "evident to all men, diligently reading holy scripture and ancient authors, that from the Apostles' time, there have been these orders of ministers in Christ's church,--Bishops, Priests, and Deacons." And we regard none as a lawful minister in this church, except he have had episcopal ordination. Any other form, or source of ministerial authority, the church considers as unscriptural and erroneous. But she passes no judgment in regard to the consequences of this error; either with respect to those who exercise an unscriptural ministry, or those who receive it.
Brethren, the subjects I have already brought before you, relate principally to your public ministrations. There are other means of advancing the cause of your divine master. Among these I might recommend your promoting the circulation of pious books, tracts, and religious periodicals. But there is no more effectual method of giving weight and influence to your public instructions, and of promoting the spread of pure religion in your parishes, than by private and friendly exhortations from house to house. By an intimate knowledge of the individuals who compose your charge, you become enabled to adapt your conversation and instructions to their various spiritual wants. You can arouse the careless to serious thoughts, encourage, the timid, reason with the unbeliever, remonstrate with the froward; and more solemnly warn the openly profane: All this is to be done with affectionate tenderness towards the persons you address, and with a special adaptation to proper times and seasons. The poor and the afflicted, the sick and the dying, will demand your special care; and in all your private, as well as in your public ministrations, [13/14] you will continually bear in mind that the great ends of your office are the promotion of true religion; and the salvation of souls--and especially of the souls of those who constitute your peculiar charge.
Need I add, brethren, that none of the duties I have commended; whether public or private, can be successfully performed, unless you possess in yourselves unfeigned piety, and evince to the world an exemplary life and conversation. It is from the truly devout mind alone that those sentiments spring up, which have the greatest influence in the conversion and religious improvement of men. And if our life and character fail to correspond with our profession, we can have little hope of efficacy from our admonitions and instructions: Men will look more to our conduct than to our professions of piety; and it is right that they should do so, for actions are more real than words. But though an inconsistent and unholy life injured not our ministry, we must not forget that it would destroy our own souls.
Let us then, brethren, guard our hearts, and our conduct, with the utmost vigilance, lest that by any means, when we have preached the gospel to others, any one of us should be himself a cast-a-way.
Brethren, the times in which we live require that we should take especial heed to ourselves and to our doctrine; that we should be abundant in our labors, vigilant in, our care of the church of God committed unto us, and faithful and zealous in the performance of all our duties. Never was there more need of a strict observance of the precept of the Saviour: "Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves." The subject of religion occupies an unusual share of the public attention. There has been no period since the reformation when such zealous exertions have been put forth for its advancement. This auspicious characteristic of the times has been gradually developing itself for more than twenty years, and as the era was preceded by a period of comparative apathy, the present has, not inaptly, been called a season of revival. It is highly important, brethren, that we participate in this characteristic of the age. It is therefore incumbent on us, not only to take peculiar heed to our own religious state, and to the spiritual welfare of those who are committed to our charge, but we are called upon to take an active part in the common efforts that are put forth to extend the Redeemer's kingdom through the world. We are called upon to afford our aid in the dissemination of religious knowledge, and in sending forth the gospel of salvation, with its ministry, and ordinances, not only to the destitute of our own country, but to the benighted heathen, in other lands. And we are emphatically called upon to contribute our aid in elevating and sustaining the tone of religious piety, in the communion to which we belong, according to that unerring standard prescribed in the gospel.
But, brethren, our times are marked by other characteristics, less auspicious to the cause of divine truth. While these zealous exertions have been put forth for the promotion of the christian religion, we cannot fail to have observed that this holy cause is bitterly assailed, [14/15] both by open and covert enemies, and that it is sometimes lamentably injured even by its professed friends. The success of the Redeemer's cause seems to have called forth the most active and subtle opposition of the adversary. Infidelity has arisen from the dust, into which it was humbled by the events of the French revolution, and once more stalks boldly through the land. The plenary inspiration of the scriptures, and the divinity and atonement of the Saviour, are now denied by those who bear the christian name. And even among those who imagine themselves the best friends of religion, its doctrines are sometimes so distorted, the modes of advancing it are sometimes so injudicious and extravagant, and the course of 'duty it prescribes is sometimes so revoltingly misrepresented, that one is at a loss to determine whether the sacred cause is most injured by its professed friends, or its avowed enemies. The misrepresentations and perversions of infidel writers have, indeed, done incalculable mischief to the cause of christianity; all the powers of sophistry, sarcasm, and ridicule have been exhausted by them; and appeals have constantly been made to the worst passions and prejudices of .human nature; yet it is still problematical whether it has not been as deeply injured by the erroneous views, and mistaken efforts of those who have professed the christian faith. The history of the church is full of instructive lessons on this subject. During the period emphatically designated "the dark ages," the errors and the absurdities of the Romish faith became the occasion of a wide spread infidelity on the one hand, and of the grossest hypocrisy and superstition on the other. The glorious event of the reformation was soon marred by the metaphysical subtleties intermixed with the christian faith, in Geneva, Germany, and Scotland. And these perversions have probably been the occasion, in later times, of more pernicious and fatal errors, which sap the very foundation of the christian faith. There is too much reason to fear that the same theological views have led to the same dangerous errors, in some sections of our own country. In the south of Europe, where the abuses of the Romish church still maintain their sway, a secret infidelity is cherished by large portions of the community. A distinguished congregational divine has expressed the opinion that "In England, the extravagances of the pious, in the time of Cromwell, threw back the cause of vital piety, for two centuries." And he warns the churches of his communion, in New England, and certain portions of the west, against the consequences to be apprehended from the encouragement of similar excesses.
Considerations of this sort afford us salutary cautions. They teach us to discriminate carefully between pure religion itself, and the errors and extravagances which sometimes accompany it as appendages; or which are obtruded on us as its substitute. They admonish us not to reject the great truths of religion, because there are abuses which accompany them;--not to cast away the pure gold, on account of the dross and alloy which adhere to it.
 Brethren, it is one of the happy characteristics of the church to which we belong, that our congregations are not subject to those extravagant excitements in relgiotti1siwhich are so pregnant with abuses, and which the history of other denominations informs us are so commonly followed by periods of .coldness and dissension. Let, it be your great care constantly to promote, among the people committed to your charge, the spirit of pure and unaffected piety; to keep them well instructed in the doctrines of grace and salvation through Jesus Christ; and to stir them up to a faithful and habitual discharge of their christian duties;--to guard them against injurious ebbs and flows of religious feeling, and to cultivate, and steadily sustain in them, that tone of religious sensibility, and that elevation of Christian duty, which shall correspond with the standard prescribed in the gospel. The most successful means of effecting these objects will be found in the faithful performance of the ministerial duties adverted to in the former part of this discourse. These means have been used with success, from the time of the Apostles to the present day. They are not to be hastily abandoned, for any of those expedients, devised by the sanguine imaginations of over-zealous men, which may create a temporary ferment in the community, but which, by a natural, reaction of the human mind, are sure to be succeeded by, apathy and indifference. That is the true spirit of christianity, which glows with a clear, steady, and constant light; not that which occasionally gleams forth, in a fitful glare, and which seems but to render more palpable the succeeding darkness. We are taught by our church, daily to pray to God, that he would "send down upon our Bishops, and other Clergy, and upon the congregations committed to their charge, the healthful spirit of his grace," and that he would "pour down upon them the continual dew of his blessing." Our conduct should be consistent with our prayers, and our efforts for the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom should be zealous, steady, regular and unremitted. Others, who entertain different views of the operations of the Holy Spirit who heed them not in the "still, small voice," but perceive them only in the "great and strong wind," the "earthquake," and the "fire," may pursue a different course. For ourselves, let us continue in the constant and faithful use of all those means of grace which are commended to us in the scriptures, and let us steadily rely on the aids of that omnipresent Spirit, which God has promised to all who seek them in sincerity, and with fervency.
My brethren, the good providence of God seems to have brought about an unusual attention to the concerns of religion throughout our country. Let us be grateful that this blessing has happened in our day, and let us faithfully co-operate in his designs of mercy. More special providences may sometimes arouse the attention of particular communities. Their religious sympathies may be excited by some sudden death, by some visitation of pestilence, or by some [16/17] unexpected deliverance from impending judgments. We sometimes witness the effects of human agency in creating religious excitement in a community. Under all these circumstances, our duty, as ministers of Christ, is plain. We must avail ourselves of the prevailing sensibility to call sinners to repentance, and to administer instruction and consolation to those who are anxious for the salvation of their souls. When people are disposed to hear, whatever may be the cause, it is our, duty "to teach and to premonish." And though no new methods of instruction are required, yet we must be more abundant in our labors; we must multiply the occasions of public worship, and be more sedulous in our visitations from house to house. Adhering strictly to the sound doctrine, and salutary discipline of our church, we shall be in little danger of encouraging fanatical excesses, and by steady perseverance in the course of duty, we may be the instruments of promoting the cause of true piety in the church, while we escape those reactions to which other communions are exposed.
Brethren, it is not without reluctance that I have hazarded some of the latter remarks, which I have addressed to you. They relate to a subject on which our opinions are peculiarly liable to misconstruction, and concerning which our motives are peculiarly exposed to uncharitable judgment. It is a subject, however, upon which the circumstances of the times seemed to call upon me for the expression of my sentiments, and which I wished to commend to your deliberate consideration.
In the present world, good and evil are so mingled together that we sometimes find it difficult to condemn the latter, without doing injury to the former. Yet our vows of ordination, as well as our immediate duty to our divine master, require that we should always "be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the church, all erroneous and strange doctrine, contrary to God's word." While it is a duty from which we must not shrink, yet it is one which is to be performed with much tenderness, and caution. We must beware how we give the enemies of religion occasion to triumph in the detected abuses which sometimes accompany it. We must beware lest we injure the religious sensibilities of a weak brother. And we must beware lest we give occasion to the imputations that we are ourselves unfriendly to the cause of vital religion. But no intermixture of error can aid the advancement of religious truth. On the contrary it must retard and injure it. We, my brethren, are "set for the defence of the gospel." It is our duty to guard it from the intermixture of human errors; to declare its truths with plainness and simplicity; to direct all our efforts towards the extension of its pure doctrines throughout the world; and especially to impress them on the hearts of the people of our charge, and to evince, ourselves, their saving influences in the temper of our minds, and in the conduct of our lives.