PRINTED BY JOSEPH ROBINSON.
REVEREND AND BELOVED BRETHREN,--THE course of time has again brought round the term at which it becomes my duty to stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance of the things which concern us especially as ministers of CHRIST. From the rich abundance that presents itself out of which to choose the theme, while thus employed, I have little difficulty in making a selection on this occasion.
Circumstances affecting the present condition of our branch of the Church, require of us all a more than usually dose attention to the provisions for unity and consistency in doctrine, by which our responsibility to GOD and man is affected, and our conduct in the minis try must be regulated. There is, in many quarters, an uneasiness (not, unhappily, without some show of ground,) that requires plain and clear exhibitions of our real condition in respect of the safeguards for purity of doctrine and uniformity of discipline and worship, by which soundness in faith and incorruptness in practice are to be preserved among us. In more than one direction there have been movements tending to destroy our confidence in each other, and still more, our reliance in the bonds by which we are kept together in concord and united action. Organised associations to affect the [3/4] teaching and worship of the Church are formed or spoken of, and novel interpretations of the terms of membership and office in her communion are connected with them. Double meanings are propounded for her Catechism and Articles, and loose constructions claimed both for them and for the Prayer Book. Ministers may be found fraternising with one or other of the forms of schism that surround us, and asserting for their appearance in the mass-house or the meeting-house, the plea, so popular and so plausible, of the liberty wherewith CHRIST hath made us free. Contemplated changes may be heard of, directly involved in public declarations about remaining traces of Popery in our Offices, or indirectly aimed at in secret whisperings against the ultra-protestantism of the reformers, by whom those offices were compiled. For such efforts to undermine or batter down the goodly fabric of which GOD hath made us inheritors and keepers, full allowance is demanded, under loud protests against the intolerance which would rebuke or punish them.
These signs of the time are evil, it must be owned. But there is one hopeful feature in the case. The tendencies to unrest and outbreak are not all in one direction. They oppose each other. They feed each other, doubtless, for a while, by such opposition, while each charges the errors and extravagancies of the other upon the truth and right that lie between them. But in the end, their counterbalancing and mutually destructive influences must result advantageously for the doctrine, discipline and worship which either of them, unopposed, might weaken and lay waste.
 Now their common object of attack is authority and rule.
Not that there is an avowed intention to destroy, or even set aside, the authority and rule existing in the Church. A more effectual assault is carried on by demonstrating its incompetence, its uselessness, its inconsistency with the privilege of Churchmanship, or the attainments of spiritually-minded Christians. The Church has no rulers, say they, but its laws. Its laws are too narrow to be Catholic; or, they are too formal to be Evangelical. They must admit of extension. To put a strict construction on them, and enforce it, is narrow-minded and intolerant. They must be administered consistently with the largest liberty.
Now it is an old and noted device of men desiring to overthrow established authority and substitute their own, to cry out against intolerance. They are friends of liberty, they say. They seek, they claim, they mean to establish the widest liberty--liberty for all--liberty diffusive, indifferent, equal, universal.
But liberty may be universally diffused and equal to all, without a difference, and yet not be liberty from every thing, for every thing, to every thing. Such liberty would be anarchy, and wild, chaotic license. Such liberty the reformers of every age are careful to disavow as not their object In so doing, they do well: for if they did it not, they might have some followers, truly, but such, and in such proportion to the bulk of the community, as would eave their case in hopeless feebleness and contempt.
 Yet the disavowal of an effort to establish liberty in its widest sense, reduces the question between reformers and the authorities against which they wage their war, to one of mere degree. There has never existed a human tyranny so complete, as to leave no liberty, in any respect, to its miserable subjects The nearest approach to a complete tyranny, that which combines pretensions to spiritual power with the possession of the temporal, has never, even in the dynasties of the mediaeval Popes or of the Caliphs of Islam, attained to such mastery of man, in his social, intellectual and religious being, as to fetter all his movements, or exercise control over every faculty.
At any time, then, in any system, in which change is called for under the name of liberty, there is a certain degree of liberty in possession and at the same time, those who call for more are not desirous to obtain it--nay, are not willing to suffer it to be claimed--beyond a certain degree. Limits have been fixed, and they are desirous to fix new limits. The question between the agitator and the authority is, whose limit is the right one? not, shall there be a limit? It is not liberty absolutely that is called for, but liberty within a certain line. The struggle is, who shall fix that line?
If the line to be fixed were always a simple boundary in one direction, it would be comparatively easy to settle the question at issue, and proportionably difficult to mystify it with fallacies and cunning trick of policy. But it is not so. The limits to be ascertained lie all around a circle, or rather on the peripheries of a multitude of [6/7] more or less coincident circles, of which both centres and circumferences are often difficult of discovery and discernment.
Thus designing men, or men deluded by their vain imaginations of their own rectitude of intention and conduct, but really slaves of prejudice, find their advantage. They call for liberty, that is, new, broader limits of liberty; and so doing, point in one direction, and show the reasons for shifting the limit in that direction: but do they propose to gain that broader limit by widening the whole circle, or series of circles, in every other direction, equally? or by shifting the centre of an unwidened circle in that one direction?
On the answer to this question, which many of them have not asked themselves, and which most of those who have, do not like to have put to them by others, depends the character of their pretensions to be "friends of liberty."
On it, again, depends, in no small degree, the decision of the point at issue, both as right and as expedient. It might be clearly right to move to a certain point in one direction, and as clearly wrong to do it by a motion extending equally in all other directions. It might be perfectly expedient to allow an extension of liberty, around all the periphery of a circle, and utterly inexpedient and unjust to grant it at one point only.
To apply these remarks to our own case. Two classes of brethren among us are striving to obliterate if they can, to change if they may, the limits of the [7/8] liberty that, as children of the Church, we have been all along enjoying until now.
To say that they are doing so, is no pre-judgment of their cause. They may, for aught that is implied in the statement, be doing a meritorious work, discharging a sacred duty. All that can be required of them, is, honest avowal of their respective purposes, and in order to that, clear conceptions of them for themselves. They should know, and let their brethren know, in what direction, to what extent, the boundary line of fit and lawful, is to be removed; and also, whether its removal is to be effected by a widening of the circle of permissible affinities and actions, or a shifting of its centre. Or if its existence at any given point is denied, they should show whether only that point of our circle of relations and possible expansions is left open, or whether our religious liberty has the property of infinite space, to have its centre every where, its circumference nowhere?
On one hand, the bosom of a brother expands with a large hearted zeal for the extension of the blessings of the Gospel that leads him to ascend the platform in aid of religious efforts not known nor sanctioned by the Church, and tending to the counteraction and destruction of her discipline. He claims to be within the limits of his liberty in doing so. But on the other hand, an equal large heartedness of zeal, in its longing for catholic communion after its own fancyings, is willing to excuse errors stamped with the condemnation of the Church, to seek the fraternity of those who receive and practise them, and even to modify its own tenets and ministrations to [8/9] the nearest possible conformity with such as have been disallowed by the Church as dangerous or sinful. He, too, claims to be within the limits of his liberty, and to have done no wrong.
Are both these brethren right? If not, which? Why one more than the other?
There is one limit to their liberty, which both at once own.
They equally, unfeignedly and unreservedly admit their right of thought, speech and action to be restricted by the will of GOD.
That will, they both desire to carry out, and aim to do so, in their several courses of action.
How do they know it? And how does it affect them?
They know it directly or indirectly; by revelation to themselves, or by a general revelation, of which they, with others, are sharers.
A revelation to themselves, if they suppose it, by the immediate operation of the SPIRIT, who is the guide to all truth, upon their hearts, is of force for them, and for themselves only. Their thoughts, words and actions it must control, and in following it, they must abide by the consequences of their liability to delusion. But it is for themselves only. The moment it affects their relations to others, in any circle, from the narrowest to the widest, under any responsibilities, from the lowest of social affinity to the highest of official station, their individual per suasion becomes worthless, without other sanction. Signs and wonders and the demonstration of the SPIRIT must attest a direction, which is otherwise a mere temptation. [9/10] The integrity of revelation, and the defence of Society against fanaticism and insanity, depend on the observance of this law.
Of general revelations we know but one; and among us, thank GOD, there is little question about the nature and authority of its record. The Scriptures are our common rule, by the contents of which we all admit our obligation to be guided. Their paramount authority is owned; and what they authorise or direct, we will all allow to be sufficiently upheld.
But the Scriptures to be a rule, must be applied and interpreted; and to be a rule for more than one, must be applied and interpreted by an authority co-extensive with the limits of the company to be ruled. If a believer stood alone before GOD on earth, his own understanding of GOD'S word would be his sufficient guide. But the moment two or three are joined in mutual relation and common duties, their joint sense of the application of the express directions, and of the interpretation of the implied import, of the common rule, must be the limit of the common liberty, and therefore of that of each. The Church, as a society, must have for its rule as such, the Scriptures as understood and applied by the society; and every member must be governed by that rule in every respect in which his actions, words or even thoughts can affect his relations to any other member of the society, or the society itself.
The rule of a society binds according to its purposes: no further; and no less. Men associated for transient or partial interests and ends, can only be bound by a rule of transient or partial application. Higher and more [10/11] extensive ends of association bring men under a more extensive rule.
The ends of our association in the Church of CHRIST cover all the concerns of life in all their infinite variety, and extend through all the duration of our endless being. When enrolled in that association, we gave body, soul and spirit up to CHRIST our LORD, unchangeably, for ever. The rule of the Church, then, covers all human duty throughout the term of our probation. All our conduct comes in its purview. We can do nothing, we can engage in nothing, which it does not more or less affect.
Thus it is evident, that as individuals enjoying membership in the Church of CHRIST, our liberty is limited by the will of GOD, declared in the Scriptures, as applied and understood by the Church.
For all her members, the Church Catholic has furnished her application and interpretation of the Scriptures, in the "form of sound words," on profession of which they were admitted to their membership by Baptism. Laymen or ministers, we all may say, with the divines of Wittemberg before the Council of Trent, "our faith accepts the guidance of the writings of the prophets and apostles in that natural sense which is expressed in the Creeds--the Apostles', the Nicene and the Athanasian." [Adfirmamus clare coram Deo et universa Ecclesia in coelo et in terra, nos vera fide amplecti omnia scripta Prophetarum or Apostolorum: et quidem in hac ipsa nativa sententia, quae expressa est in symbolis, Apostolico, Niceno et Athanasiano.--Confessio Doctrina Saxonicarum Ecclesiarum Synodo Tridentino oblata. Anno M.D.LI., &c. De Doctrina, p. 14. Ed. 1552.]
 For the Church Catholic, the Creeds are the catholic interpretation and application of Scripture; and by them only should we be bound, if we could be members of that Church without being members of some one branch. But that we cannot. Our membership is through the branch in which we partake of the Word and Sacraments. By the law of its being, we are bound, as the law and condition of our membership of the Church Catholic.
Every branch of the universal Church is, and must be, a society in itself. As a society, it must have its terms of membership correlative and coextensive with its end of association. That end is the glory of GOD in the salvation of human souls by their being brought to the knowledge of His grace and faith in Him, to spiritual worship and to holy life. Doctrine, discipline, and a pattern or custom or law of worship, are needful for that end--all controlled by the rule of the universal Church, but having a form and subordinate peculiarity of their own. The society of whose existence they are necessary terms, can exist only as one. Its unity implies unity in the law by which that unity is maintained. As one, it can have but one doctrine, one discipline, one law or custom or pattern of worship. These, conjointly, are its interpretation and application of the will of GOD declared in His revealed word, for the guidance of its members.
The limit of individual liberty, then, for ally Christian, is the teaching of Scripture as interpreted and applied for him by the. Church, in tire catholic creeds and [12/13] in the provisions for doctrine, discipline, and worship, of that particular branch of the Church in which he enjoys his membership.
For the restraint of his conduct within that limit, in all his relations as a private member of the Church--in other words, for the application of the rule to his private conduct--his private judgment, that is, his understanding enlightened and quickened by his conscience, is the administrative or executive authority. As he will answer to GOD, he must satisfy that, from the first enquiry, What is the particular rule of doctrine, discipline or worship, concerned in the particular case in question? up to the last, What is the will of GOD in its primal fount and highest form? If his private judgment should dissent from the particular rule under which he lives, he would have most cogent reason for doubting his own sincerity, vigilance or fidelity to himself--most urgent motive for renewing his examination and appealing from his own decision. But once settled, that decision would be imperative. Were it to rebel against his rule, he must do it, with all the fearful risks. To the Searcher of hearts he must commit himself. There is nought else for him.
But this is true of private conduct only. The individual conscience governs only the individual. The moment the line of his individuality is outpassed, another jurisdiction holds. The rule under which he lives must be applied by an authority commensurate with that rule, in every thing concerning others together with himself. The effect of his words and actions upon others comes under the cognizance of tire society of which they and [13/14] he form part, and the rule of that society must govern him, with reference to their interests and the relations between them and him, as fellow-members. The rule in theory becomes discipline in practice, and settles for the individual what, if it concerned him alone, must be settled by his conscience only. The alternative then becomes obedience or punishment; submission or separation from the society. He still has the alternative of perilling all upon his private judgment: but it is no longer before GOD alone. It now affects his position here, as well as his hopes hereafter. His risk is double; censure or expulsion in the present, and if at last he be not found to be able to stand before his Master, condemnation in the future judgment.
Discipline, thus taking hold of the Christian in all relations, affects him most directly and notably in those of a public, official nature.
A society must have officers. The Church has them, and under conditions which are necessary, because they are involved in the very notion of office. Office implies trust; and trust, responsibility; and responsibility, a guiding rule commensurate with the trust. To the same extent, limitations of individual liberty result. What the man might do, the officer may not. What the individual might eschew, the officer may not decline. His office imposes duty which must be discharged: it brings on him new degrees of accountability, which must be provided for. For duty, he is a light in a candlestick, which must be burning: for example, he is a city set on a hill, which cannot be hid. The conduct [14/15] of the man must be regulated, and therefore his liberty limited and restricted, by the nature and duties of the office he is allowed to bear. Does he serve? His service must be of that kind, and to those persons, pointed out by the tenor of his appointment As a man, he may think other service needful, and its extension to others than those for whom he ministers expedient. As an officer, he has no right to think so; still less, to act upon his private views. He has a service. Faithfulness to the society in which he is an officer consists as much in not going beyond his office, as in not falling short. For if the foot took the office of the hand, or the smelling of the taste, were not the body injured as much as by lameness or defective smell?--Does he rule? His rule must be not by his own judgment and for ends of his own selection; but by the law and for the ends of the society in which he rules. He has no rule beside that law and those ends. In and for them it is that his power to rule exists. They are its essence and necessary limits. As a man, he may think those limits narrow, and see ends beyond those set him when his office was assigned him. As a ruler, he can know nothing of such ends; he has no right to look beyond his limits.
Does he teach? The regulation of his action by the nature of his office becomes still more important: for teaching in a society is the life of all its action, on which service and government both depend. He is a teacher, not for himself, of his own opinion; but for a society, of the doctrine of that society. He is to teach, not what he believes, because it is what he believes, but what the [15/16] society teaches. He is the society, for teaching. The society teaches by him. His teaching is its teaching: therefore it must be its teaching, and nothing else. There must be no admixture (or as little as human frailty and fallibility will allow) of his own in what he teaches. Such admixture would be treachery to his office, falsehood to his trust.
If, as an individual, he should find his belief varying from the norm of the society in which he is an officer, he can no longer continue to bear office. He must regain his liberty by laying down the office which is its restriction. His bearing office depends on his private conscience: but while he bears it, not his conscience, but his office, is the limit of his liberty. As a man, he cannot teach what he does not believe. In office, he must teach the belief of the society in which he is an officer. If it is not his belief, his conscience must be obeyed: but its dictate is, not that he shall violate his office, but that he shall lay it down. He must escape the limits imposed by office, by falling back upon his larger liberty as a private individual. While he remains an officer, the society of which he is the voice, controls its own voice. Its rule of teaching is his law. He teaches what that rule directs, and nothing else.
The Church of CHRIST teaches, and can teach, nothing but what it finds in the Holy Scriptures,--the fixed, unalterable deposit of all revealed truth, of which it has been made the witness and keeper, with which it is sent into the world, to proclaim, expound and enforce its contents. But the Church teaches Scriptural truth not [16/17] in the letter only. It is the spirit that giveth lift, as well in the new law as in the old; and to enable its members to find and enjoy the spirit in the letter, has from the first been a principal office of the Church. The sense and force of Scripture, it has always been the province of the Church to keep before the minds of believers; and in order to that, to indoctrinate them in its meaning, and in the first principles and essential outlines of its doctrine. "THE doctrine" to which Timothy was to "take heed;" "THE faith once delivered to the saints," for which S. Jude requires us to "contend:" "THE doctrine according to godliness," to which, "if any man consent not, and teach otherwise," the man of GOD is to "with draw himself from such;"--is the doctrine and faith of the Church, established in it by the Apostles, and kept in it, by the watchful care of its Divine Head in fulfilment of His promise, from their day until now. In "the form of doctrine" which was "delivered" to those in Rome of whom St. Paul testified that they obeyed it from the heart--"the form of sound word which Timothy "heard of" the Apostle, and was charged to "hold fast"--the members of the Church have, from the be ginning, received a notion of revealed truth as a whole, and of its great constituent items, at the outset of their membership, as the object and law of their belief. Starting from the point attained in the Creed, as expounded and illustrated in the catechetical teaching by which, every where and at all times, the Church has labored to put its members in full possession of the substance of its creed, they are led onward, in their progress toward [17/18] perfection, by the hand of faith, in the worship of the Church; receiving, in its prayers, its psalms, the order and objects of its offices, its round of holy festivals and solemn fasts, and its selections of Scripture, as they are connected with each other, and with the forms and offices in which they occur, at once a training for under standing the Scriptures, and a continued commentary on their meaning. As from tithe to time they meet with error in various forms, or it arises in some new shape, they are assisted to detect it, and to put it down, by the definitions of the Church in Articles of Religion, or express enactments, in the form of Constitutions, Rules or Canons.
These are all subservient to the wants of every member. They make up the common corporate teaching of the Church. But in aid and application of that general instruction, the work of the ministry is to teach and premonish, to instruct, exhort and reprove. By those who hold that office the provisions which subserve the wants of the rest, are to be made subservient to those wants. Creeds, Catechism, Liturgy and Articles are to be doubly their rule, as the guide and objects of their own belief, and as their instruments for guiding and forming that of others.
Their own belief is, in the very nature of the case, a necessary pre-requisite to their guidance of others. The man who doubts or hesitates is unfit to lead. The hand that administers discipline, must be palsied by no misgivings as to its right or the fitness of its action. The tongue that offers worship must not stammer forth in [18/19] broken accents a heartless service. The doctrine that is dispensed must be qualified by no reservations or forced constructions. Honest, hearty persuasion that we are right, is indispensable to faithful labor. Our heart must be in our work, to do it well: and he who is not fit to do it well, is unfit for it at all.
Therefore it is, that every branch of the Church, be fore admission to its ministry, ascertains and receives a pledge of the individual belief of the candidate for office. It is a necessary mode of qualification for the office. Not only because right faith and sound judgment are integral parts of that personal character which must belong to every one advanced to the high trust of ministerial responsibility, but because their exercise in the adoption and maintenance of the faith and judgment of the Church are pre-requisites for appointment to ministerial office in order to its discharge, as preparatives for it, or as elements without which the individual is incapable for its due performance. Hearing, sight and speech are less necessary; for their absence may, in some way or other, in more or less degree, be supplied: but there is no substitute for an absent acquiescence and interest in the belief and practice which the minister is to implant and cherish in those for whom he ministers.
Of such acquiescence and interest in the belief and practice of the Church in which we minister, we, my brethren, have given our pledge in ordination and in the previous examination. It was the security taken by the Church that we were fit as well as ready for the ministry--able to discharge its duties faithfully and zealously, [19/20] because true and hearty in our own allegiance. At the solemn moment when we received the irrevocable trust of our sacred office, we deliberately made the promise by which we all are bound "always so to minister the doctrine and Sacraments, and the discipline of CHRIST, as the LORD hath commanded, and as this Church hath received the same, according to the commandments of GOD; so that we may teach the people committed to our care and charge, with all diligence to keep and observe the same."
The Church knows only of CHRIST'S doctrine, sacraments and discipline; and knows of all, equally, as commanded by CHRIST, and to be kept and observed by His people; implying not choice but duty--a duty, when faithfully rendered, becoming choice; but choice, because it is duty,--not, due in so far only as it is chosen.
But whatever might be the condition of a man free from ties and obligations, in view only of the absolute facts of the existence of the Gospel and its institutions, and of his own contact with them in a state of probation under the responsibility of eternal consequences--ours is no such condition. We are under a most sacred pledge--voluntarily given, but given under the profession of a belief that we were divinely called to do so, and that we gave it according to the will of our LORD JESUS CHRIST--to hold and teach a certain doctrine--not our doctrine, or a doctrine; and to minister certain sacraments and discipline--not of our invention or device, but "a received by the Church, of the command of CHRIST." Having recognized the Scriptures as the only fountain of our doctrine, and promised to teach [20/21] nothing but what we honestly and truly find there, we then pledged ourselves to draw from them that doctrine, and establish by them that practice, which we had already satisfied ourselves they warranted the Church in upholding as CHRIST'S command.
Before that pledge was given, was the time for us to settle the momentous questions, whether the Christian teacher can bind himself by any thing more stringent than the naked letter, or narrower than the whole text of Scripture? and whether the doctrine, sacraments and discipline, that "this Church hath received as commanded by CHRIST," exhaust the fundamental verities, and comprise the necessary requirements of the Christian faith and life, as taught in Scripture?
In ordination, we affirmed for ourselves, before GOD, that we believe they do; and that because they do, we might and ought to bind ourselves to them as the substance and limit of our teaching, the rule and pattern of our ministration.
For our course and conduct in the ministry, no other pledge or declaration beside that (solemn and stringent as it is) which is made in ordination, would seem to be necessary. But to assure all concerned that it was made in full recognition of its nature and effect, a previous written declaration was required, as a condition of admission to ordination, in the form of a "solemn engagement to conform to the doctrines and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States."
By that declaration the verbal pledge in ordination was interpreted in its application to the branch of the [21/22] Church of GOD in which our ministry is cast. "The doctrine" of CHRIST which we were "always so to minister as to teach the people with all diligence to keep and observe the same," was explained to be "the doctrine of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States,"--the sacraments and discipline which we were so to minister, were defined as "the worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States." "This Church" according to whose receiving we are to minister all, was specified by name, as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States.--Not our gatherings for the word of GOD, or our inventions for His worship, but a certain doctrine and a certain worship of a certain body, having standards and formularies, by which its doctrine and worship, were already known to us and to all, were voluntarily, but most solemnly, in the written declaration and, in the public promise, assumed at our admission to the ministry, as thenceforth to be the object of that ministry. It was to consist in teaching the doctrine and ministering the sacraments and discipline, which the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States has received, as according to the command of GOD; and in striving with all diligence to bring the people for and among whom we minister, to keep and observe, that same doctrine, sacraments and discipline.
That this cannot be done by ministrations among other bodies of Christians, needs little argument to prove. Either there are no grounds of difference between us and them; and then they and we are alike condemnable for wicked alienation and disorganization [22/23] of the Body of CHRIST in holding separate communions, without--it need not be said, sufficient, but--any cause: or, if there be any grounds of difference, then those grounds must be forsaken when we go among them, and to that extent we become unfaithful to our pledge of giving all our diligence to the ministry of "the doctrine, sacraments and discipline" of "this Church."
But for the government of our due and proper ministry where only as ministers of CHRIST in this branch of His Church, we have any right or commission to minister, within and for the Church itself, it is of great importance that we should clearly understand where and by what "the doctrine" of "this Church," its sacraments, and discipline, are fixed and determined.
After what has been said, it is unnecessary to speak of the Bible and the Catholic Creeds. "This Church" would be no Church, if it did not acknowledge them as the fountain and pattern of its doctrine--the Bible as its only and all-sufficient source, the Creeds as its irrefragable and necessary form. From them our doctrine, sacraments and discipline are drawn, by them are limited. But what is the substantive form in which that doctrine, sacraments and discipline, are exhibited? Where did we find them, when we prepared ourselves intelligently and deliberately to profess our reception of them, and determination to adhere to them?
I have spoken of the practical teaching of a particular Church, as consisting in its worship, catechism, articles and canons. The provisions for that practical teaching are its norm or standard, in which it is to be [23/24] sought, recognized, professed and carried out, by those to whom the duty is entrusted.
The provisions of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States for worship are all embodied in its Book of Common Prayer. Beside that it has provided for the instruction of the young its Catechism, for the guidance of its ministry the Articles of Religion, and for the government of all, a body of Constitutions, and Canons, general for the whole confederation of dioceses, and diocesan, for each several diocese.
The Constitutions and Canons, general and diocesan, and many of the rubrics of the Prayer Book, make up the standard of our discipline. I leave it, to pass to that of sacraments and doctrine.
It will not be disputed, that what "this Church" holds concerning the number, nature, effects and ministration of the sacraments is to be found in the Book of Common Prayer and Articles of Religion, conjointly taken. Whatever is enjoined, declared, asserted, or by necessary inference affirmed in either, is part of the law or doctrine of the Church. Neither, therefore, can be taken as a standard independently of the other, on any subject. On that of the sacraments, the offices for their administration must necessarily contain the most abundant and minute information and illustration. Prayer, of all human productions, needs to be the most elaborate and best considered. Prayer offered, and doctrine propounded, in the celebration of a sacrament, must have a claim, if any thing human can, to be regarded as duly weighed and [24/25] accurately expressed and to be taken, in all strictness, in the precise, native sense of language.
The outline, then, of the doctrine of the Church concerning sacraments, presented in the Catechism and guarded against error in the Articles, is to be filled up from the Prayer Book. Its express and clear statements concerning the effect of Baptism and the nature of the Eucharist, are the clothing of muscle and integument which gives symmetry, expression and completeness to the well-framed but bare skeleton of generalities in the Catechism and independent particulars in the Articles.
No less than all thus taught by the Church we are bound to teach: nor is any thing more permissible. Positively or negatively, in restraint or in extension, the minister of "this Church" may not add teaching of his own to the sum of what he gathers from the Prayer Book and the Articles concerning the mysteries by which our union with CHRIST is effected and kept up; and that he may not be tempted so to do, or unconsciously transgress, he has been tried and tested as to his own satisfaction with that exhibition of those divine provisions for our spiritual wants.
But this brings us to a difficulty.
Human language is always susceptible, in greater or less degree, of misapprehension and perversion. May we not have misunderstood the Prayer Book and Articles, when we made up our minds as to their view of the sacraments? May we not now be misunderstanding them?
 In as far as there are differences of opinion among the ministers of the Church on the subject of the sacraments, some among them must be in misapprehension of the doctrine which they ought to hold and teach. There must have been a failure somewhere to get the true sense of the Prayer Book, or of the Articles, or of both.
Such a supposition implies that there is a true sense, to which all are bound, and which all must be resumed honestly to desire to get, and hold, if they can; if not, to be ready to obey the convictions of their conscience, and abandon a post for which they are not competent.
It is strange and mournful that this should not be at once and universally admitted. But it is not. Men justly in high esteem for intellect and piety, have been found who could somehow satisfy themselves with the persuasion that a sacred formulary of worship, of Christian instruction, or of religious profession, might have two senses, a larger and a narrower, a higher and a lower, a stricter and a looser, a (so-called) Catholic, and a (so-called) Protestant.
The obvious--the necessary rejoinder to such an assertion is, that for any purpose, human or divine, a Liturgy, a Catechism, or an Article, that has two senses, may as well have two hundred, or none at all. It is no standard of truth, no statement of truth, no recognition of truth, no fit offering to Him who is THE Truth, nor from those who are required to "worship," as "in spirit," so also "in truth." It cannot be that we go before our GOD with an equivocation upon our lips, or teach our little ones a phrase of double-meaning to ensnare their [26/27] souls--that we agree at the altar or the font, in the pulpit, or when we take the solemn vow that admits us to the pulpit, in sounds and syllables, while our hearts and understandings disavow the hollow concord!
It has been said, that as prayers are not intellectual exercises, their precise signification is of less importance! that as articles are subscribed as terms of peace, any sense which the language can with any degree of plausibility be compelled to hear, may be accepted for the purpose!
These things were said a hundred years ago, by those who sought a domicile for the Arian heresy in the Church of England; [See Waterland, case of Arian Subscription considered. Works, vol. II.] and (strangely enough!) in a succeeding generation, by those who strove, in a latitudinarian age, to hinder Socinianism, avowed and covert, without and within the Church, from breaking down the harrier which subscription to the Prayer Book and Articles placed between its votaries and the establishment. [Dr. Wm. Samuel Powell, defence of the Subscriptions required in the Church of England. Discourses &c. ed. Hughes. Disc. II.] But the impudent assailants and the weak defenders alike disgraced their respective interests, by resort to the worst subterfuge that has ever stained the corrupt and odious system of Jesuit morality. Their doctrine of diverse senses is Probabilism, in a slightly altered form and application. It is the claim of a license to use language in any sense which it is convenient to give it, for which any warrant can be obtained that it ever has been given, in any circumstances, by any one. It is the annihilation of [27/28] the distinction between truth and falsehood in utterance between man and man, and between sincerity and hypocrisy in man's approaches to his Maker.
I will detain you with no attempt at a refutation of this hypothesis of a doable sense, my brethren. It is enough to have stated it, and to have called your attention to its true character.
What, then, is the sense of the Prayer Book, Catechism and Articles, in which they exhibit "the doctrine of this Church?"
It has been formally maintained, (and a confused notion of the kind seems to be not uncommon) that it is that sense in which they are generally understood--the currently received meaning of the day.
The difficulty in presenting objections to this view, consists mainly in their number and variety. It is utterly untenable. By whom must the meaning be currently received? Not by all: because if all agreed in it, there could be no occasion for inquiry; and that is presupposed. By the learned, it has been said. But who shall determine the limits of that class? who collect its suffrages? who report its decision? And suppose a general agreement of a class, or of all men, in this age; shall that conclude the next? and shut out all further doubt, all room for reconsideration? In one respect it were well it did: for most certainly the interpretation given such writings as those in question by general suffrage, would be increasingly erroneous from age to age. In proportion as a document is open to all, and all claim interest in its meaning and interpretation, there is danger of its [28/29] being gradually lowered in the current acceptation. This is the tendency of all language. It loses sharpness, clearness, depth in time. It is like a gem cut in facets exposed to long friction, by which with its change of form and bulk, it also loses polish and translucence. The language of the many is always less clear and significant than that of the cultivated few. The same words convey different notions to the intellectual thinker, and to the uneducated man of the world. A formulary of faith, therefore, can never be safely interpreted by the generally prevalent notion of its meaning. In proportion to its age, its language will have lost precision and significance; and the more general its use, the more that process will have been accelerated. It must be tested by an unchanging, not a fluctuating standard, an adequate, not an incompetent criterion: it is not the acquired sense that will serve our purpose; we want that which is fixed and full.
Most of these reasons apply in refutation of another opinion--that the sense of our formularies,--of any formularies to which assent is required as a test of belief--is the sense put upon them by the imposer.
Who is the imposer? The immediate agent--the examiner, ordainer, ordinary or judge? Then each such agent may have his own sense, and there may be as many varieties of sense as there are individual imposers. And those varieties continually shifting; and certain to deteriorate for the reasons already given.
If not the immediate agent, the Church collective must be the imposer. But is it the Church of this age only, [29/30] or of all ages back to the date of the formularies them selves? In either case, who is to collect, and who to report, the voices that make up the collective sense? The question becomes again--What is the sense of the Church and so resolves itself into the original inquiry. We sought to learn that sense from the formularies: and, to settle doubts about their meaning, we are referred back to the thing of which we were in search.
These two views are untenable. The sense of the generality is indeterminable; and worthless if it were not, unless the spirit of the age, in its determination to make the majority omnipotent, has also invested it with infallibility! The sense of the imposer is uncertain unless the Church be the imposer; and then, is the very thing in question.
A third remains. There is a sense, fixed in proportion as it is carefully, full as it is successfully, ascertained; the sense of the compiler, or composer; the original, historical sense, that which was in the mind of those who first made and used the formularies, and which they meant that they should always have.
Our Liturgy, Catechism and Articles, have all been most deliberately prepared at the time of their first compilation, and most carefully revised at several periods since, both in the mother Church and in our own. Their deliberate preparation insures us that they had originally a well determined sense: their repeated revision, that that sense has been retained wherever its expression has not been modified. What Cranmer and Ridley meant, when they offered our forms of prayer, is [30/31] the sense of those forms still, where they remain unaltered. The Articles upon which, after many years of continued and intense discussion, they and their associates agreed, as the true and safe expression of the teaching of the Church in contradistinction from the forms of error that lay around her, retain the significance which they had to them, wherever it has not been changed by an alteration of the text. Who has ever had the right or power to take away the first meaning and substitute another? How could it be done without formal, authorised action, and solemn public notification?
In this matter we must distinguish between use and right, between commonness and truth. A prayer or an article may acquire in use a meaning that is not rightful, may be commonly taken in a sense that is not true. The word "health" in our General Confession may be used by a large proportion of those who offer it, in the sense of freedom from disease, soundness of condition; but its right meaning in that form, the only sense in which it can be cited as an illustration of the doctrine of the Church, is that which it had in the mind of the framers of the prayer, who by "health" understood recuperative or restorative energy or power, and were wont to speak of our Saviour's sufferings as His "healthsome passion." The necessity of this conclusion will be evident on the supposition that the deterioration of sense in this word had become complete, and that it had quite (as it has almost) been narrowed down to mean the sound condition of the body merely. Would the doctrine of the Church have changed in the same degree? It must, if [31/32] the change of meaning of a word, a phrase, a paragraph in use, could change its rightful sense in a formulary of the Church. To avoid the absurdity of making those formularies a miserable nose of wax, their language must be received in a stationary sense, and no where can that sense be found, except in the mind and meaning of its original employers.
To assure ourselves of that mind and meaning, we have but to use with diligence and candour the ordinary rules of interpretation, so thoroughly discussed and clearly laid down both by the teachers of scriptural exegesis, and in the schools of human law.
By those rules the original sense of our Prayer Book and Articles are to be fixed by an examination of the modes of speech and thought of their compilers,--of the occasion of their compilation--of the aim and intent with which it was undertaken--and in order to the knowledge of that, of the circumstances in which it was carried through.
Long as I have already occupied your attention, my brethren, I cannot enter into details on these interesting points: but, even at the risk of becoming wearisome, I must not leave the subject without making a few additional remarks concerning the use and bearing of our Articles of Religion, as a standard of "the doctrine" of "this Church."
It is a mere cavil, to say that regarding them as such a standard, is making them a Creed. They make no pretension to that character. They were put forth for [32/33] an end entirely different from that of Creeds. They belong to a distinct, well known and very ancient class of formularies, partaking of the nature partly of a declaration, partly of a canon. Two hundred and fifty years before the archiepiscopate of Cranmer, one of his predecessors had in such a formulary, put forth "Fourteen Articles of the Catholic Faith, which all the ministers of the Church are bound to know and teach;" [Constitutiones Joannis Peckham Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi apud Lambeth editae Anno Dom. 1281. cap. de Informatione Parochianorum. ad calc. Lyndwoodi Provincialis, ed. Oxon. 1679. fol. 28.] and who ever will compare them with the first formulary of the English reformation, the Articles of 1536, and with its enlargement in the second, "The Institution of a Christian Man," will be satisfied that the compilers of the later documents had that of the thirteenth century distinctly in their view. Of all three compilations, the express, avowed, only object was one and the same, the furnishment to ministers of a sketch or outline of the doctrine they were to teach. Archbishop Peckham professed to be moved to furnish his by the prevailing ignorance of both priests and people. Archbishop Cranmer and his royal master put out theirs, induced by "the diversity of opinions grown and sprung" around them, and "the outward unquietness thence ensuing." The same inducement continuing to operate, led to the subsequent effort to further peace in our present Articles, as is shown by the almost perfect sameness [33/34] of their title with that of the Articles of 1536. [ARTICLES OF 1536. Articles devised by the Kinges Highnes Majestie, to stablyshe Christen Quietnes and Unitie amonge us, and to avoyde contentious Opinions, which Articles he also approved by the consent and Determination of the hole Clergie of this Realme. ARTICLES OF 1552. Articles agreed on by the Bishoppes, and other learned menne, in the Synode at London, in the yere of our Lord Godde, M.D. LII. for the avoiding of Controversie in Opinions, and the establishment of a goodlie concorde, in certeine matiers of Religion.] There is not the least reason to suppose the later production to have been expected to bring about peace in any other way than the earlier; and of that, its contents leave no room for doubt that it was expected to operate as a declaration and pattern of doctrine, and no otherwise. This destroys the figment that the Articles are a compromise--a shuffling subterfuge to conceal permitted discrepance in teaching.
So far, indeed, from concealment of such discrepance was the aim of their compilers, that one of the ends they had in view in 1552, was to distinguish the true from false teachers, both in the Church and before the world; by the severance of the sound from the unsound among the clergy and exclusion of the latter from the office of teaching; and by the manifestation of the soundness of those approved, to each other, to the Church at large, and to the numerous enemies disposed to take occasion against them, by their subscriptions of the formulary. Into the motives of the reformers, indeed, that of Peckham's Articles, "ne ignorantia sacerdotis populum praecipitet in foveam erroris," entered largely; but secondarily, as a result of agreement in maintaining and inculcating a body of sound teaching.
 Sound teaching, as distinguished generally from an error: but most especially from those forms and kinds of error which were then most rife.
From the prevalence of these among the clergy it was most necessary to secure the Church: in order to which, provision must be made that they should not be held nor taught.
From the imputation of them it was greatly desirable to secure both the Church herself against the calumnious charges of her adversaries, and the individual members of the clergy against the evil surmisings and jealousies to which the troubles of the times made them peculiarly liable. They must be enabled to trust each other. They must be put in a position to claim to be trusted by their brethren of other Churches, and by the world.
It was therefore necessary to put forth, not a mere statement of views entertained with relation to this or the other controverted point, but a body of doctrine comprising the whole scheme of their teaching, so far as it was liable to be affected by prevalent errors of any class.
Such was the origin of the many formularies to which the reformation, in its first stages, gave occasion. None of them was designed--none, certainly, professed--to embody in itself all Christian truth, nor even all saving truth. Still less was it in the contemplation of the framers of any to claim for their contents, as such, the character of matters of faith, in the old well known and settled sense of that expression. They were, at most, Confessions, not Creeds. It was one of the many [35/36] disgraceful artifices; to which the dissensions of the times furnished temptation, to confound those perfectly distinct characters, and charge the reformers, of various names and shades, with substituting new terms of faith for those of old recognized by the Church of CHRIST. They did no such thing. They proclaimed their acceptance of the old, and adherence to them. The three Creeds, and the four General Councils were reverenced and clung to by them all. In their articles and definitions they sought and found "THE faith once delivered to the saints," as it had been drawn from its living source in the Word of GOD by its Witness and Keeper in all ages. The new articles and definitions were to be as hedges and guards around the sacred unchanged deposit, prepared with reference to present needs and specially adapted to those needs. It was reserved for Rome to commit the sin of attempting to add to the Catholic Faith, by a new creed put forth under pretence of warrant from a packed assembly of Italian bishops, as a term of admission to communion.
This general reference to the practice of the reformers has been made, because our own Articles of Religion unquestionably had their origin in that practice. The Articles of Torgau, the Confession of Augsburg, the Tetrapolitan Confession, that of Taussan at Copenhagen, the Articles of Smalcald and the First Helvetic Confession, had all preceded the earliest emission of the English Articles, and were more or less in view of their compilers. With but one of these documents, indeed, have our Articles any close relation: but with [36/37] that one their connexion is of a nature the most intimate and direct, substantiable by superabundant evidence, both internal and circumstantial. In more than one respect the Confession of Augsburg is the source of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Churches of Eng land and America--their prototype in form, their model in doctrine, and the very fountain of many of their expressions, while others are drawn from its derivative expositions and repetitions.
The germ of our Articles is discoverable in a paper prepared by the joint labors of Melancthon and the other divines of Wittemberg, and of Cranmer, Barnes, Heath and Fox on the part of England, in a negotiation of more than two years' duration. More or less of the language of sixteen of the Articles is discoverable in that document, and several of them almost exactly in the form they now bear. This carries nearly one-third of the formulary back to the year 1538, and requires us to look to the circumstances and writings of the English and German divines at that precise period for the illustration of the language then employed. It requires also that no sense be put on those portions of the Articles, as published in 1552, inconsistent with the deliberate and full expressions of views entertained by Cranmer at any time subsequent to the earlier date. When at the later period, he used the same language that he had agreed upon at first, in treating with great deliberation upon those most important topics, the Trinity, the Incarnation, Original Sin, Justification, Good Works, Sin after Baptism, and the One Oblation of CHRIST, it [37/38] is impossible to doubt that he employed them to express the sense which they had at first conveyed, and in which they had received the sanction of the Lutheran divines.
So again, of seven of the Articles as they now stand, portions are copied verbally from the Confession prepared by the divines of Wittemberg, to be offered to the Council of Trent in 1551. These, however, are all additions made in 1562: and it is observable that they constitute almost all the additions that then were made.
I state these particulars to illustrate the connexion between our Articles and the formulary of Augsburg, and the necessity of watching closely the process of their formation, if we would accurately conceive of their scope and meaning.
It has been rashly supposed that in their preparation there was little or no reference to the differences of opinion among the Reformed, at that time already existing and daily assuming more and more formidable distinctness.
On the contrary, there is sufficient evidence that these were but too plainly in the view of the compilers, and were urged on their attention, both from without, by parties concerned in the continental disputes, and from among themselves, by friends and disciples of the leaders of those parties. It is as true that the articles contain positive doctrine in its negative bearing on opposing error, with relation to the puritanic form of Zuinglian doctrine and discipline, and to some of the Lutheran tenets, as that they do so with reference to Romish corruptions of faith and practice. Neither of those antagonistic forms of heresy was fully matured when the [38/39] Articles were drawn up. But both existed, not only in the contemplation of the English reformers, but in contact with them, and in garbs and attitudes demanding notice. Of Romanism this will not be questioned, seeing that all acknowledge the Articles to be the embodiment of the reformation as understood and carried out in England. But it is too little noted that, from its earliest stages, the Reformation, as well in England as on the continent, had to struggle with principles and aims claiming to be more thorough than itself, and certainly going beyond it in the remove from the old position. Not a move in the long slow work of forty years [In Germany, 1517-1555; in England 1530-1571.] was made without reference to the danger of being dragged forward over an irrecoverable precipice in the effort to get clear of the slough behind. Not a step taken can be understood unless in view of that alternative. Not a document, a formulary, an article, an injunction, an office, a homily, but must be estimated, if truly estimated, as much by the consideration of what it does not contain as of what it does. With reference to Lutheranism, the admirable lectures of Archbishop Laurence have proved this, beyond denial. With reference to Zuinglian and Calvinistic tenets, in addition to the strong proof he has furnished, much may be derived from Calvin's own epistles, and much more, of the most striking kind, has been lately made accessible by the publication of the Zurich correspondence. [Original Letters relative to the English Reformation, written during the reigns of King Henry VIII., King Edward v and Queen Mary: chiefly from the Archives of Zurich. Edited for the Parker Society. First Portion, Cambridge, 1846. Second Portion, 1847.]
 In the outset, the leader of the English reformation did dream of the preparation of a formula in which the true reformers of all Europe might unite; and he sought the aid of some of the most eminent in the work. On Melanchthon he principally depended; and with reason; for if it could have been effected, that clear head and honest, humble heart were competent to the task. But it soon appeared to be impracticable: and after two years occupied in the publication of the Prayer Book and First Book of Homilies, two more were spent in the adaptation of existing materials afforded by the earlier fruitless negotiations with Germany, to the more matured state of the Reformation, and in moulding the Articles by slow degrees into the near approximation to their present shape which they attained, at their first appearance in 1553. The wants of the Church in England were alone in view in this latter process; and it was carried on during the ineffectual struggle of the half-learned Hooper to obtrude his crude Zuinglianism upon the Church of which secular influence had made him a governor. It is only by comparing his two sets of articles with those put out by authority, that we can fully understand how thoroughly his views were rejected and barred out by the adoption of our formulary.
It is, then, my brethren, by no superficial study of our Articles of Religion that we can assure ourselves of an intelligent perception of their true use and bearing. For that no mere parrot-like acquaintance with the letter of their text will qualify us. They must have been studied in their history and sources, in the constant [40/41] reference not only to the direct intention of their framers, but to the conificting influences which they had to en counter in the progress of their work, and against which its negative protests are tantamount to positive inculcation of the truth which those erroneous influences were distorting and perverting.
Thus studied--and only when thus studied--they will be truly appreciated as a standard of "the doctrine" of "this Church."
To exhibit that doctrine in its fulness and entireness they make no pretence. [This appears in the Articles themselves, in their entire want of systematic arrangement; in the form of many of the articles, sad the sty of title of almost all: and in the absence of all mention of some doctrines fundamentally important, except as they are involved or stated in the creeds. It appears from their history. In the accounts of their inception, in their titles at their several emissions, in the terms with which they were subscribed, in the language of the canon directing their subscription, they are always spoken of as "certain articles," "articles on which it is agreed," "articles received, professed and approved as true and orthodox," "articles without doubt selected out of Scripture, and conform to its heavenly doctrine in all respects:" but nothing of their comprising a system, constituting a confession, being complete or sufficient--much less exclusive. On the contrary, in the canon (of 1571) prescribing subscription, they are joined with the Common Prayer and Ordinal. This is a formal and express notification of their character and use by their compilers and first imposters.] In order to such an exhibition of the teaching of the Church, the Prayer Book, Catechism and Homilies must be employed in connexion with the Articles. But for limitation of doctrine, for its discrimination from error, for protest against perversions and corruptions, they are not only an integral, but in essential portion of the provisions by which continued adherence to the truth in its purity and complete ness, is secured among us.
 As such, they were directly and necessarily comprised in the solemn ordination-vow, "always so to minister the doctrines of CHRIST, as this Church hath received the same;" and by that vow we are bound to conform our teaching to the pattern and limits furnished in the Articles, more effectually than we could be by any mere subscription of the document.
Much might be said, in illustration of the proportions in which "the doctrine" of "this Church" is contained in the Prayer Book and Catechism, and in the Articles; of the relations between the several formularies in point of necessary priority and ultimate authority; and of the mode and occasion of their use, positively, to ascertain what must be, and negatively, to determine what may not be, set forth in our authoritative teaching, as ministers of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. But the great length to which I have already protracted my observations, compels me to conclude.
I do so, then, brethren, in the firm persuasion that what ever failure there may have been in the manner of conveyal, the substance of what you have been hearing will have had your assent; and that in my endeavor to state the grounds and extent of our obligation, "with one mind and one mouth to glorify GOD" in the profession and inculcation of the truth as it is in JESUS, I have only been formally expressing the principles and rule by which it is my happiness to know, that, as a body, the clergy of the diocese of Maryland are governing their course in ministerial duty.
 The times seemed to me, to call for an explicit recognition, on our part, of our rule and our responsibilities as teachers. I have hoped that in making it, as I could, I might be regarded as in some degree acting, by privilege of my office, in your name and as your mouth piece: and that what has been said might in that way acquire a seasonable value and importance which could on no other account belong to it.