WM. H. YONG & BLAKE, 8 AND 9 FIRST STREET,
"SATIS ME VIXISSE ARBITRABOR, ET OFFICIUM HOMINIS IMPLESSE, SI LABOR MEUS ALIQUOS HOMINES, AB ERRORIBUS LIBERATOS, AD ITER COELESTE DIREXERIT." Lactantius, de opificio Dei. § 20.
The undersigned ask of the REV. DR. COIT, a copy of his vigorous and able sermon, preached this morning, at the opening of the Convention; and they ask it from no spirit of a passing compliment, but as cordially endorsing its tones, and believing that just such teaching, and just such truths, will serve God's cause in our day.
WM. CROSWELL DOANE, S. BOSTWICK,
J. H. HOBART BROWN, J. J. TUCKER,
S. C. MARVIN, JOHN TOWNSEND,
N. S. RULISON, BYRON J. HALL,
JOS. DAVIS, GEORGE H. WALSH,
LEWIS H. LIGHTHIPE, JOSEPH N. MULFORD,
ROYAL MARSHALL, CHAS. A. HENMAN,
WM. M. OGDEN, THOMAS MAY THORPE,
GEO. L. NEIDE, JOSEPH CAREY,
E. S. WIDDEMER, WM. R. JOHNSON,
D. U. BUEL, JAMES M. STEWART,
J. H. BABCOCK, PORTER THOMAS,
HENRY M. DAVIS, GEO. W. FEGRUSON,
J. H. POTTER, O. MEADS,
W. O. JARVIS, TOWNSEND FONDEY,
A. H. STUBBS, J.S. KIDNEY,
JAMES FORSYTH, S. DOWNIE,
J. H. HOPKINS, J. DOLLOWAY,
WM. H. COOK, ALBERT DANKER,
JOHN FRANK WINKLEY, A. H. WHITNEY,
ELIAS WEIL, WILLIAM STONE HEYWARD,
WM. T. BIRSALL, E. SLADE,
GEO. CURTIS, S. W. JACKSON,
J. RANDALL, A. A. VAN VORST,
TIBBITS PRIGGS, WM. BOGERT WALKER,
GEORGE FISHER, WM. B. TIBBITS,
J. H. VAN ANTWERP, JOHN I. THOMPSON,
JAMES CROMWELL, W. J. AVERELL,
N.B. PEARSALL, A. G. MOORE,
HENRY STANLEY, SAMUEL NORTH,
GEORGE TOBEY, F. JAMES FITCH,
ALBANY, ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS, A.D. 1869.
TROY, N.Y., Oct. 15, 1869.
With many thanks for the attention with which it was listened to,
I remain yours, with much and sincere respect,
BRETHREN IN THE LORD:
If fewer and less saddening years had passed over my head, the post now occupied by me might have been coveted, under the aspirations of ambition. But I can now read Horace's touching ode about our fleeting years, without caring so much as I once did, for what they have deprived me of, as for the goal to which they soon must bring me. Hence, places of trust show themselves to me, only on the side of their highest responsibilities; and accordingly let me ask you to believe, that this place is filled by me to-day, only because it has been made one not of option but of obligation, and to accept what is said (whether or not you like it,) because duty, and duty of the most imperative character, constrains me to its utterance.
It is indeed a most serious and trying thing, to stand at the threshold of history for a new and important Diocese, and endeavor to tell you, by the solemn lessons of the past, what that Diocese ought in some respects, and henceforth, pre-eminently to be. May God help me to speak, and you to hear, for the honor of his Holy Name, and the welfare of his holy Church.
The text which has been taken seems appropriate enough; for it is the earnest counsel of an Apostle to an ecclesiastic, beginning the work of a new Diocese. And it seems short enough; for it contains but eight words, and half of them monosyllables. Yet the eight must be reduced to five, and all for which there is time included in the phrase, "Take heed unto the doctrine." And, now, whether by "doctrine" St. Paul meant a system of truth, or the preaching of that system, is a [5/6] question with which I care not to trouble you. Let it suffice to say, that quite likely he includes both. He certainly meant something very positive and very definite; for he did not say doctrine merely, but the doctrine.
So the first point which I shall make for this occasion is,--That the clergy, now a days, should preach more about doctrine than they have done, and the people complain less of them if they do.
Confessedly, I was never as a pastor more astonished or mortified, than when a lady-parishioner (now deceased) who could make no small pretensions to smartness as well as personal beauty, said to me, one day, "Why do you preach about doctrines? Why do you not preach about ethics? What is the use of doctrines?" "What is the use of doctrines?" was my rejoinder, "Why, what is the use of bones in your beautiful person? Take the bones out of your splendid configuration, and it would become an unsightly mass of shapeless flesh. Doctrines are to religion what bones are to the human body: perfect, absolute, indispensables. Take the doctrines out of Religion, and the whole tumbles into a heap of rubbish." And I might have added, "Put the bones of the system into any other order than Nature has prescribed, or doctrines into any order than logic prescribes, and the result would be much the same." For, as Quintillion has said about arrangement, "If in our own bodies, or those of any other animals, we were to displace or alter the position of any part, they would, though they had the same number of parts, be but monsters." (Book VII., Intro.)
Questionless, such statements seem but axioms to a thoughtful theologian. And yet, as my experience admonishes me, they are axioms to be acted on, at the present time, most strenuously and most persistently. People do not know, or will not perceive, that doctrine is in Religion where the oath of a Bishop at his consecration places it, a foremost thing. That oath embraces the whole of Religion, under the three titles of doctrine, discipline and worship; and puts doctrine, where every [6/7] theologian with a sound mind in a sound bode would think of placing it--at the head of a summary of Religion's table of contents.
But fashion and fastidiousness and false taste--not to say wrong heads and very wrong hearts--put it elsewhere. Even Mr. Froude sneered at it, in his inaugural address, delivered to the University of St. Andrew's. Doctrine is of consequence, doubtless, in Medicine and Law, in Politics and Finance, in Science and Economies of all sorts. But in Theology, which used to be called the queen of the Sciences, and which down to Wickliffe's time put the Professor of Divinity, as it did him, at the head of an academic corps--in Theology we need no doctrines! Let the preacher tell us something about moral duty, and season his discourse with a little sentimentality, and above all things, make his sermons short enough; and he is the man to fill pulpits acceptably, to multiply parishioners, and to make parish taxes moderate
Do you mean to have such preachers, brethren? Do you mean to entrust the Church and your salvation to such tutoring If you have a gouty toe, if you have a flaw in a title-deed to a sorry acre, if you are going to sell a single share in stocks which are trembling on the balance, you want the long-practiced physician, the most thorough-bred lawyer, the most wary and experienced broker. But you are going to put the ark of the Church afloat, with your soul on board of it, and make pilots of what a sailor would call theological middies! Do it, if you think you are dealing with sublunary trifles. Do it, if you think you are not dealing with God Almighty and his eternal judgments. But if the Everlasting One, his will, his institutions, and the immortal weal or woe attending a proper deference for such things, may approximate anything like a just appreciation in your mind's eye, then, by Heaven and its bliss, by Hell and its perdition, beware! The old and the unchanged ruling of the tribunal of last resort is, "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Believeth not, what? believeth nothing [7/8] but what one shall choose to believe? believed nothing but what one's fancy accounts worth believing? nothing but what our private judgment rules out or in, puts up or clown, makes white or black, or round or square! Is this all the criterion a standard wants, which carries on its forefront salvation or damnation? If so, then what is Christianity worth? or what do the Church, or the Sacraments, or a Ministry and its pulpit proclamations, amount to! what are they all but a mockery and a three? and dear ones too--not worth as many pennies, as we pay dollars for them!
Now, would to God that the unthinking--for I am altogether willing to call them the unthinking, rattier than the corrupt and the unprincipled--would to God that the unthinking might meet such ideas, thirty, squarely, and honestly. Christianity is something, or it is nothing. If it is something, it is an immense and an indispensable something. And if it be, then it has doctrines--such doctrines as go to the very essence of Medicine, and Law, and Politics, and Government, and Trade, and human practical life all over, and all through. And if it have such doctrines, then those doctrines must be preached, as an imperative necessity. And if they are mysterious, recondite, summoning man to implicit faith, in spite of the pride of reason and the pratings of philosophy and science, then, my brethren, men are wore than fools, to entrust the preaching of such doctrines to word-painters, to sentimentalists, to the votaries of cant and rant and popular admiration. Such pulpiteers will run Religion down, and the Church down with it, till none are so poor as to do them reverence; and infidels will speak out loudly, what they now mutter in whispers, that the pulpit had better be treated as the English Parliament has been treating the Church of Ireland, and disendowed as an encumbrance.
And yet the cry is, we must not preach doctrine, such doctrine, for example, as original sin, and the atonement, and justification--the very doctrines I lately heard a Presbyterian publicly apologise for, as old-fashioned--we must not preach the [8/9] antedated and rusty doctrine of days gone by. Why, if you think preaching doctrine, and old doctrine, unprofitable and ineffectual, look at the Church of Rome, which is treading upon your heels in this country, without the sword and bayonet to back it, as in the days of the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Rome preaches doctrine, and nothing else. Rome preaches doctrine from the first of January to the thirty-first of December, annually. Rome preaches it as the price of one's salvation. Rome preaches herself, as the entire Church Catholic, and all the world beside, as lapsed into heresy or schism. And yet Rome--so the cry goes--is riding Protestantism down, and compelling it to utter the groan, which echoes up to us from our financial metropolis, "Protestantism is a failure!"
And the Greek Church, too, which some of our theological wiseacres do not want to shake hands with, except across the barrier of an armed neutrality, this is another Church of doctrine-preaching. And, a while ago, I received three volumes of her issuing, upon the subject of dogmatic theology. Volumes in tall royal octavo, amounting to 2279 pages. Volumes thought worthy of translation, out of a learned tongue, into one of common parlance. And if I were to ask a parishioner to buy and read them, he would stare at me, as if I had asked him to buy and swallow half the bottles on the shelves of an apothecary. Yet a doctrine-preaching, and a doctrine-publishing, and a doctrine-reading church, puts forth and accepts such volumes; and it flourishes. Aye, flourishes, and sends a bishop to that Alaska, where we have begun, as the old Puritans did in Massachusetts, not with the Gospel, but with gunpowder!
Such are the doings of churches, which deal with doctrines, and never mince matters in their doctrinal annunciations. And when the forefathers of New England preached doctrine, and plenty of it, and in the full strength of it--ill the shape of a Calvinism, stronger than the fire-water they poured down Indian throats--then they flourished too. Then they taught students to read such a sturdy Latin quarto as that of old Peter Van Mastricht, covering more than fourteen hundred [9/10] pages. [A grand old book, and well worthy the love and honor of a Cotton Mather generation. It discusses its topics regularly, in four different ways--exegetically, dogmatically, elenchtically, (answering queries,) and practically. It is a book out of which such elaborate sermons could be made, as I once heard from Dr. Lyman Beecher. I listened to him till he reached his thirteenth head, upon the damnation of infants. Then, as I had been standing all the time, and was somewhat fatigued, I retired. Praise to the old man's memory, he was against the topic handled, and with all his usual energy and peculiarities.] But their children revolted, and wanted doctrine weak as the Sabbatical snow-broth, which Milton said some had diluted it into, in his days. They had their way; and now Puritanism is broken up into the minutest fractions, and the grand question at its old centre and throne, (the city of Boston) is, whether there be such a thing as a personal God! A grand battle of ideas (we are told)t is going on there, and the comprehensive conclusion is to he, Believe anything, or nothing, just as it suits you; and you are safe at any rate. Annihilation awaits the errorist and the profane; and we offer you sleep without end, upon its painless pillow. [In the Independent, for June 10, 1963. The full creed (if it can be called such) may be found in the proceedings of the Free Religious Association, p. 7. "A church without a priesthood, a moral code without a theology, a God without a dogmatic system"!!! This is a creed which might answer for tablets, in a "synagogue of Satan."]
A legitimate issue this, as Dr. Pusey--strangely enough once argued, of too much creed-making. He so argued once, in a controversy with the late Hugh James Rose, a most able theologian, and an editor of the British Magazine, respecting the developments of Rationalism in modern Germany. And, perhaps, such may be the issue of mere scholastic and metaphysical creed-making:--of such rationalistic theology as Thomas of Aquin put together in his celebrated Summe, and John Calvin, in his scarcely less celebrated Institutes. Thomas of Aquin taught Hume such Satanic subtlety, that Carlyle, that worshipper of heroes but not of God, pronounced him a very pontiff. And Calvin has been the progenitor of many a metaphysical unbeliever, as well as of one Jonathan Edwards.
But such is not the result of creeds, uttered by the Church Catholic, and which are the Church Catholic's attested interpretations [10/11] of the Bible, "through the ages all along," from the days of the Apostles to our own. And so Mr. Rose contended, against the erewhile latitudinarian doctor, in a volume not large in size, but as full of true ecclesiastical philosophy as this century can boast of. You may believe this, when I tell you, that Dr. Pusey burned and suppressed his own book; and so effectually, as to keep me from a sight of it, after a search of thirty years.
The Creeds of the Church Catholic are not the results of scholastic reverie and theological speculation. They are the formal testimony of an historic interpretation, which has descended from remotest Christian times. They resemble the attested and recorded interpretations of Law, in its courts of supreme and final adjudication. They are the voice, therefore, of united and consentient Christendom; and the man who cannot accept them, contradicts historic Christianity, from its beginning to its end! Now a man who spits contradiction in the face of a nation--pronounces its most established and cherished sentiments political usurpations--that nation feels authorized to repudiate as a traitor, hangs him up by the neck, or spews him out as an exile. And why then can we not pronounce the man, who gives historic Christianity the lie--contradicts the nation of Christians from its birth-time until now--a schismatic or a heretic, and fling him out with the ban of excommunication? Ah, no. This would be blind bigotry, this would be black-hearted intolerance, this would be red-handed persecution, this would be to re-erect the, so-called, "Holy and Apostolic" court of the Inquisition!
Oh judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason!
So then, Brethren, our Church must see to it, that her ministers do not give way to popular prejudice, and that they preach doctrine plainly, steadily, and perseveringly.
But now it will be necessary for me to divide and distinguish a little, to show how doctrine can be preached thus. Men are craving at present--are hunger-mad it is said--for positivity in [11/12] faith. They tell us, they are bidden to follow the dictates of private judgment, and they may travel through the whole circumference of Theology, and find no rest; since private judgment guides not to cardinal points only, but, as the mariner's compass does, around the entire horizon. We, therefore, want (they say) a definite faith, an exact faith, an undisputed faith, a faith at once venerable, certain, and unchanging.
No doubt, men want such faith as anchorage, when tossing, tossing about, till soul-weary, upon "the waves of this troublesome world." And that is precisely the faith the Church Catholic aimed and intended to give, in her creeds, in her accepted liturgies, and in the decrees of her Ecumenical Councils. That is the faith which our own Church intended to give, in her appeals to the testimony of long-gone days. In the book on Reformation of Law, which Cranmer and his contemporaries drew up, and which they meant to put into the same category with the Prayer Book and the Articles of Religion--a book, the loss of which cannot be sufficiently deplored--in that book, the Church of England was told that the Bible was to be interpreted by old creeds, and not by current opinions, and that the man who renounced the orthodox Catholic faith, thus certified, was in peril of perdition. [Reformatio Legum. De Fide Cath., chapters 13 and 17. The reference is to a volume, prepared by Abp. Cranmer and his associates, to bring about changes in Canon Law, as well as in doctrine. Continental Protestants sympathized with them in the idea of interpreting the Bible, and preaching, according to orthodox and established creeds and confessions. Thus, the old oath taken by ministers of Helvetian ordination, had the following clause in it, "I shall preach the only Catholic Faith, contained in the Canonical Books of the Prophets and Apostles, according to the exposition of our Helvetic Confession."--Durel, on the Reformed Churches. London, 1662, p. 10.--Verily, all the old and genuine Protestants believed in Churchinterpretation, and not in private interpretation; in Church-judgment, and not in private judgment. That was introduced by the Unitarians. Socinius, e. g., was as certain of the truth of his opinions, as that he had his hat in his hand--Bibliotheca Fratrum Pol. II. 768.--In this infallibility of self-consciousness, the Unitarians and sceptics have followed him; and now, instead of one pope, we have thousands!] The same thing was echoed by the Convocation of England, and may be found scattered in the treatises of her theologians. Here is a summary of it, in the last will and testament of Bishop Ken, a [12/13] man who made a libertine like Charles the Second do him reverence. "As for my religion," said he there, "I die in the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Faith, professed by the whole Church, before the disunion of the East and West. More particularly, I die in the communion of the Church of England, as it stands distinguished from Papal and Puritan innovations, and as it adheres to the doctrine of the Cross." [A similar position was taken by the late Conference of Anglican and American Bishops, at Lambeth, in 1867. Compare Bp. Cosin's Wks., iv., 348.]
Here, then, is that clue to positivity, which we can offer men, when they come to us, and say they get no comfort, no definite direction, from those who interpret the Bible for themselves. Tell such "anxious inquirers," without quailing and without a qualm, that they are not called upon to interpret the Bible without a hand-guide, any more than the prime minister of the Ethiopian Queen. Tell them, no man may interpret the constitution of his country, or one of his country's treaties, or a statute law, or the last will and testament of his relative, friend, or neighbor, (if he has one particle of interest in doing so,) according to the whim or the dictum of his individual and transitory judgment. And are we to suppose that Jesus Christ, the grand Lawgiver of Christianity, has left his last Will and Testament, "for his body's sake which is the Church," and yet allows any one but that Church to say, authoritatively, what its meaning shall stand to be, in doubtful and contested cases? If he has, then, as an old divine said, he is the poorest Lawgiver who ever dictated a code to mortals.
But what Church, exclaims the Papist, is to declare this meaning, in doubtful and contested cases? There is no Church but mine; as even Bossuet said to Bishop Bull, a hundred and fifty years ago. Bossuet confounded the Church of Rome with the Church Catholic, (the everlasting blunder and assumption of his Communion,) and could not, or would not, comprehend Bishop Bull, while he pointed him to times, when the Church Catholic was not divided, disunited, as it now is--times, when the Church [13/14] Catholic was what it was always meant to be, a Communion of Saints, that is, an intercommuning body of believers:--for such, as history teaches me, is the proper force and significance of that well-known form of phraseology. I shall not of course deny, that it may have reference to the Church in Paradise. But history informs me, that the phrase grew out of the perils of schism, and was a recorded protest against schism; and thus have I always preferred taking it, since that fact was known to me. [King's History of the Apostles' Creed, p. 340, etc., 4th ed., 1719.]
The testimony of the Church Catholic, as an undivided Communion of Saints, is enough for positivity, for any reasonable doubter. There are two Creeds, which belong to the period, that such a remark contemplates. There are liturgies which belong to it, the substance of which has been incorporated into our own. There are decisions of Universal Councils, upon the profoundest verities of our Religion, which pre-eminently belong to it. In other words, there are precedents to go by, a disregard of which would floor and disgrace any lawyer in the land. One of the best educated lawyers I ever knew, once told me, that long-continued and undisputed precedent was law. "Law, sir," continued he, "why, such precedent is absolute law." "Well," was my remark in consequence, "then Episcopacy is the absolute law of Christendom; for Gibbon himself acknowledged that it had a string of precedents to appeal to, of fourteen hundred years standing." [Gibbon's testimony referred, in round numbers, to the period included between A. D. 100 and A. D. 1500. See note 112, to chapter XV, of his Decline and Fall.] And I might have added to Gibbon's testimony, that of David Blonder, the ablest and most candid Presbyterian who ever commented on the Church history of ancient times. Both these men admit, that as soon as the agitations of its settlement had taken place, and Christianity appeared as a polity, and an extended organization, that then Episcopacy appeared universally, as a fixed fact in it, and continued so to the times of Zuingle and Calvin. And well they might; for Episcopacy has left a record along the great causeways of Church history, which has not been left by the observance of the Lord's Day, by Infant [14/15] Baptism, by the Trinity, by the Canon of the New Testament itself. When Chrysostom began (in say A. D. 400,) to preach Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, he told his hearers he was going to preach about a hook, which many of them had never so much as heard of. He could say this, in Constantinople, the new capital of the great Roman Empire, the topmost point of politics and civilization for the outspread world. He could not have said as much, about Episcopacy, in the remotest corner of Christendom, without being laughed to very scorn!
My Brethren, if men would be as deferential to precedents, out of courts of law, as they are in them, there would be no difficulty in finding a Christian platform, for all Christendom to stand on. Let them take the dogmatic decisions of the first six Ecumenical Councils, which our Homilies have acknowledged [Homily against Peril of Idolatry. Part Second.] (or even the first four, to which, so far as doctrine only was concerned, the Cambridge Platform of 1680 did signal honor,) and there would be "an end of controversy," about all genuinely Catholic points of Christian doctrine. [The Presbyterians, in their answer to the Pope, stand, I am told, by all the six. This is a most cheering sign of doctrinal concord.] Let them take the testimony of those Councils, about Episcopacy, as millions upon millions have done about the proper day for celebrating the Festival of Easter, and there would he an "end of controversy," about all genuinely Catholic points of Christian discipline. Let them take this testimony about liturgical ceremonies; and a sufficient uniformity about Christian worship might be determined and established, for the terraqueous globe.
Here, then, is a platform, wide enough yet definite enough, broad enough yet exact enough, for universal Christendom. Men want a positive faith, and a comprehensive faith, and a guiding faith, and an historic faith; and here it is. Men want the old wounds of Christendom healed, and the Body of Christ reinvigorated and compacted, the world over. They want the Communion of Saints to exist in practical reality, as well as in the vocal professions of a creed. Amen: so be it. Here is the [15/16] remedy, here is the panacea, here is the magic charm, here is the attested catholicon!
If there he a better standard of reference, amid the resounding suggestions of the times, I cannot point it out to you. If there be, I would hail the annunciation of it as the halt, the maimed, and the blind, hailed the descending angel, when he came to stir Bethesda's sanitary waters. Remember--oh, never forget it,--such a standard once availed; for it made the Church act together, with marvellous unanimity, for more than six hundred years. The last of the General Councils acknowledged by universal Christendom, dates from A. D. 680. Why not accept the old platform as a new Eirenicon? [An Eirenicon is a peace-offering. The learned will excuse this note. I have often been asked the meaning of the word.] Why not preach it, right and left, to Papist and to Ultra-Protestant, as the only ground on which severed Christendom can ever come effectively together? Why not say plainly, and as emphatically as our powers allow, that the Holy Catholic Church can never be a Communion of Saints again, except in the way, and by the means, through which it was a Communion of Saints, hundreds and hundreds of years ago? If we say this boldly, persistively, pertinaciously, men will pause to listen to us, as if we meant something. "If I had not listened to you," said Louis XIV. to Bossuet, "what would you have done?" "Done, your Majesty," was his unintimidated answer, "why, I would have raised my voice one hundred times louder!" There is an eloquence in ringing persistiveness, which will have its legitimate influence and sway. Men will believe, if we are thoroughly in earnest, in our advocacy of the doctrine, which we have received as essentially and historically true. if we labor like such soldiers, as we were baptised to be--if we strive with martial heroism, to lead forth the genuine Catholic Faith of antiquity, conquering and to conquer,--even the scoffer will not withhold his homage.
We may be called old-fashioned, by the ignorant, the prejudiced, and the self conceited. But what is fashion, in this world [16/17] of everlasting whirls and changes? Men are beginning to talk, as if something else than Newton's great law of gravitation held the Universe together. The science of to-day may be the sciolism of to-morrow. Why, then, he afraid of a little antiquity in our Religion? It is about the only antiquity which is left us. And if our souls may not find anchorage there, then there is anchorage nowhere; and we may as well embark in the cockboat of the doubter, and drift upon the breakers of perdition or annihilation. And let us never be afraid to speak thus, to the proudest. Our words may enter between the joints of their harness of brass and iron, and stick into them like goads. Then their hour of compunction may come; as it did to the Epicurean poet of ancient Rome, when his conscience pricked him. "A fugitive," said Horace,
"A fugitive from heaven and prayer,
I mocked at all religious fear,
Deep-scienced in the mazy lore
Of and Philosophy. But now
Hoist sail, and hack my voyage plough,
To that bless'd harbor which I left before." [Francis's Horace. Odes. Bk. I, 34]
My Brethren, there is another point which it would he desirable for me to notice about Doctrine, if time permitted; and that is, the necessity of illustrating it from a. standpoint which will demonstrate its high importance. Yet there is only time to say, we should never exhibit such a. doctrine, for example, as the Trinity, in what Bacon would call "a dry light"; but as Waterland has exhibited it, in his invaluable treatise on the importance of the doctrine; or as Abbadie has exhibited it, when he proved, among other things, that if the doctrine he untrue, then Mohammedanism is quite as respectable as Christianity.
But there is no space left me fort his, nor is there any for hints about the bearing of Doctrine, upon the two grand topics, which are now provoking captious and petulant queries, and those ripples of controversy which may soon be waves. I allude, of course, to the two features of Religion, which with Doctrine help to make Religion a whole, namely, Discipline and Worship. [17/18] I fear (as sermons are now measured) too much may have been said already, about the topic which has been more particularly insisted upon. So I must come to a speedy conclusion, with my work half-done--the usual destiny of most human undertakings.
Let me say, in closing, that if we can induce men, under the testimony and tuition of the Church Catholic, to accept ruled precedents about Christian Doctrine, it will be easier than it now is, to persuade the advocates of individualism into a wholesome respect for the legitimate decisions of established and constituted authority, respecting Discipline and Worship. It seems to be, pre-eminently, an age for the rampancy of self-assertion; and our efforts must be directed to its control, with all the forces which the conservative can rally. Men want the Bible to be, what they choose to account it; and just so they want the Prayer Book, and our forms of devotion, adjusted for the gratification of private and temporary fancies. If we hearkened to them, we might do no better than if we hearkened to the Scientists; who will endow us with a fresh philosophy, for every New Year's almanac. We must act corporately and not individually, about any changes which seem desirable. And for all such changes I am ready and prepared. The Prefaces of the Prayer Book of the Church of England, and of our own, argue--a point often forgotten,--argue staidly for their propriety and possibility. So let us make them, if they are expedient; yet let us not act in cliques, or as individuals, or through irresponsible associations, but in a corporate and constitutional capacity. Let us also permit patience to have her perfect work about them. Let pamphlets, and speeches, and newspaper communications, be expended on them, by itching fingers and nimble tongues. Then, perchance, the froth will boil over, the crackling of thorns under the pot subside, and the fever which now rages in some mercurial veins be cooled and disappear. When the Puritans, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, were vociferous for changes, Secretary Burleigh demanded minute specifications. But he was a wary diplomatist, and he made his requisition of but a single section [18/19] of them. Then he presented their proposals to another section, who altered the handiwork of their ecclesiastical kindred in six hundred instances! He quietly told them to agree among themselves, and then he would capitulate to their valorous importunity. [Fuller's Ch. History, ed. 1645, v, 92. Collier's Ch. Hist., vii, 16.]
Our Church might see similar work in motion, if she entrusted alterations in her Ritual to men who are adepts in but a single vocation--the art of fault-finding. Wherefore, Brethren, let us have patience, and be calm, hopeful, and industrious. Let us be "keepers at home,"--especially mindful of our nearer and more exacting duties--as St. Paul told those busybodies to be, who would not work at all in the right direction; who had, each of them, grace enough for at least a dozen others, but not enough for his, or her, own self. [See II Thess., iii, 11. I Tim., v, 12. Titus, ii, 5.] Let us make as much as we can, out of the instrumentalities we enjoy already. Singing, for instance, is one of those instrumentalities; and if we sing a good deal more than we have clone, and sing in procession, too, let me tell you, that the Methodists can do these things, as well as we. The grandest singing procession I ever witnessed was a Methodist one, which I listened to when an undergraduate at College. It impressed me profoundly; and if I have never quarrelled with humbler processions since, I hope the abstinence may be forgiven.
We are on the verge of a new era, for our own ecclesiastical localities. Let us leave the future to its natural and orderly developments. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Let us rally around our young Bishop, and hold his hands up--finding as little fault as may be, and awarding all the credit possible. And let ns do this, (as I am sure he would prefer to have us do,) on the solid ground of principle, and not on the slippery and shifting ground of personal partiality. Let us kindly remember the testimony of a most competent witness, St. Chrysostom. '' The soul of a Bishop;" said he, "is for all the world like a [19/20] vessel in a storm: lashed upon every side, by friends, by foes, by one's own people, by strangers." [See Chrysostom's Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles. Comments upon the close of the first chapter.]
A house divided against itself falleth. Disaster, disappointment, desolation are all before its, if we cannot work unitedly; and strive to do God's work (God's work, my brethren, and not our own,) according to the exigencies by which his Providence surrounds Its. And may God inspire us with the spirit of peace, contentment, and unanimity; that we may so do such work, as to transmit God's Church, as we ourselves received it, "whole and undefiled," from those who went before us.
I will end, by giving what Bishop Hall said, amid the hard and troublous times of the seventeenth century. The good old sufferer for conscience' sake was as evangelical as the lowest of our present Churchmen, and snore Calvinistic than half of our Presbyterian neighbors. Yet this was his sage and forecasting counsel,--"Let me advise you ever to walk in the beaten road of the Church; not to run out into singular paradoxes. And if you meet, at any time, with private conceits that seem more probable, suspect them and yourself. And if they can win you to assent, yet smother them in your breast, and do not dare to vent them out, either by your hand or tongue, to disturb the common peace. It is a miserable praise to be a witty disturber." [Hall's works, Oxford, 1889, vi., 221, note.]
And now, unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly, above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the Church, by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.