+++++ +++++ +++++ +++++ +++++
CONCERNING THE FOURTH ASSERTION, "THAT WITH RESPECT TO THE SEVERAL PUBLIC DUTIES OF CHRISTIAN RELIGION, THERE IS AMONGST US MUCH SUPERSTITION RETAINED IN THEM: AND THAT WITH RESPECT TO THE PERSONS ENDUED WITH THE POWER OF ECCLESIASTICAL ORDER FOR THE PERFORMANCE OF THOSE DUTIES, OUR LAWS AND PROCEEDINGS ARE MANY WAYS CORRUPT."
I. True Religion is the root of all true VIRTUE, and the stay of all well-ordered COMMONWEALTHS.
FEW there are but can easily espy public evils, and fewer that patiently refrain from complaint, if those evils touch them somewhat. The cure of them, however, requires skill and experience; and the office is so invidious, that many naturally shrink from it. Notwithstanding, we shall endeavor, with God's blessing, to vindicate our Church ceremonies, not arguing for victory over our opponents, but giving reasonable explanations and vindications of what they, from misconception perhaps, complain against. First, then, we lay it down as a general principle, that "pure religion ought to be the chief object and care in public Polity." All duties are so much the better performed in proportion as the agents, whether governors or subjects, are endued with the fear of God, and aided by His grace. Religion is so intimately the parent of Justice, that neither can properly exist without the other. It is likewise the parent of Prudence, by the experience afforded, in men's conscientious endeavors to assist their fellow men; as it is also of Fortitude, from the conscious sense of God's providential care and love for them in well-doing. And, indeed, if religion did but thoroughly imbue the hearts of all, no other restraint against evil would be necessary. It will be proper here, however, to meet an erroneous maxim sometimes put forth, "that it matters little what the religion be, inasmuch as all, even Turks and Heathens, attribute similar results from their religions, as we from ours:" though at the same time they all admit, that it is every one's duty to seek and adopt that which is true. Now, whatever good arose from the belief of superstitious notions in false religions of old (and we admit that good did arise: [The doctrine of Transmigration of Souls, for instance, abated the fear of death on certain occasions; the hope arising from auspices caused courage to spring forth; the fear of punishment from the gods they invoked caused a reverence for oaths]) was only because of the influence of those great Truths of pure Natural Religion which were intermixed with their other fables and fancies; and which worked more effectually in some hearts than others, so that they were lights in their day and generation. Hence the purer the religion is, the worthier will be the results produced in those that embrace it. And it seems the truest and best wisdom, in all Commonwealths, to honor and take her as their chief stay.
II. The extreme OPPOSITE to True Religion is pretended atheism.
FEW there are whose faculties are so limited as not to be able to comprehend a GOD. And yet, miserable as we might consider them, those are still more so, who from depravity of heart, set themselves against such a comprehension, and perversely strive to shut out Him who would be the avenger of their sinfulness. With such perverse ones it is not often of use to argue; indeed, it is generally their custom not to use reasonable discussion, but rather by contemptuous scoffing, to overbear the voice of truth: and, therefore, they must be left generally to the working of their own guilty fears, which, notwithstanding their boasts, do nevertheless pursue them. To such atheistical persons our controversial disputes are often matter of rejoicing, as serving to confirm their unsound notions. While at the same time, from our considering the first principles of religion as a settled thing, and not being always ready with proofs thereupon, when they suddenly demand them, they imagine religion to be but as an error, propagated and supported by the wiser sort amongst the multitude, for politic purposes only. For they perceive that its sanctions, operating upon the heart, are far more effectual than mere positive laws of man. Indeed some [Machiavel], acting on this unsound imagination, have counselled the upholding religion in every way, even by adopting fraud and contrivance, and superstitions, merely as for the good and stability of the State; herein overshooting themselves, for they admit that when the Gentiles began to discover the falsehood of their own superstitions, their hearts were utterly averted. And hence, their godless devices, by their own showing, would tend ultimately to a State's ruin.
III. Of SUPERSTITION; arising from misguided Zeal or ignorant Fear.
THERE are others, however, of an opposite description to Atheists, viz. the Superstitious, whose religious feelings are of a two-fold character, either as they spring from zeal or fear. Zeal, unless tempered with sober discretion, pursues its object with such an eager impetuosity as well nigh to root up religion altogether. Fear, in its excess, destroys all right judgment, and leads to a frenzy of perplexity. Hence, each of them is a dangerous principle to adopt. And from them springs that erroneous worship of God which leads to idolatry on the one hand, or to an over scrupulous exactness on the other, as either of these principles happens to prevail. Superstition is, indeed, an insidious evil, and creeps on often by imperceptible degrees, so that, even as weeds grow rankest in rich grounds, the first principles of it have originated in what no one could have condemned, but rather applauded as good in itself.
IV. The charge of SUPERSTITION investigated.
LEAVING, however, the general consideration of this matter, as applicable to other places, we turn to the charges against the Church of England; and these in truth have been made with no light or sparing hand; insomuch, that almost every thing connected with her worship,-- her prayers, sacraments, rites, and ordinances, have all been accused as tainted with superstition . And though wise and strong-minded men might not consider this of much consequence, knowing the proneness of mankind to find fault; yet it may be well to expose and confute the charge, for the sake of others who are not so skillful or experienced, lest they should be made to waver. The great object, then, of rites and ordinances is, that God's worship may be rightly and fittingly conducted. Now, worship may be divided into the reasonable, or internal, as between God and a man's conscience; and the serviceable, as connected with the external forms of the Church as a public society. And again, this latter may be distinguished into principal rites as divinely instituted, and inferior or indifferent ones, as being of human ordinance. In these latter it is, that we have been charged as acting superstitiously and improperly.
V. FOUR POSTULATES laid down, as principles of argumentation.
Now in all argumentative processes, it is usual to mention certain pre-requisites called postulates, as commonly-admitted principles, wherefrom to conduct the argument; and the objectors themselves have done this in their charges, as, e.g. "That sound religion may not use the things uncommanded of God, that have been abused to superstition," or "That nothing should be indecently or unorderly done;" and others of a like nature. We, therefore, following this reasonable method, shall lay down four propositions, or postulates, such as may be fairly considered more precise than those above-mentioned.
VI. The FIRST Postulate.
THE first thing that moves us to approve of any services is, their intrinsic reasonableness, or adaptation to produce the end sought. True religion then, being a thing of the sublimest consideration, and most solemn importance, affecting man's heart and conscience, and influencing his happiness, ought to be manifested by suitable external conduct; and the public service of the Church ought to correspond in some measure to the dignity of Him we worship; the sign thus resembling the thing signified. Hence, the first postulate is, "That in the externals of religion, such things as are or seem most effectual to set forward godliness,-either from considerations of God's greatness, or the dignity of religion, or heavenly impressions on men's minds,-ought to be reverently esteemed."
VII. The SECOND Postulate.
IN the next place, the voice of antiquity, and the long-continued practice of the Church ought to be regarded. With the aged and experienced generally, is prudence and understanding; so that, as a wise one amongst the heathens pronounced, "the judgments of men experienced, aged, and wise, even though they speak without demonstration, are no less to be hearkened to, than as being demonstrations in themselves." And when the experience of generations of the wise, therefore, comes in addition, the authority thereof must be still weightier, and ought to have a still greater claim upon our reverent attention. Love of antiquity argues staidness, but fondness for innovation, levity, and rashness. Hence we lay down as a second postulate, "That in things whose fitness is not of itself apparent, nor may be easily proved, the concurrent judgment of antiquity ought to prevail with those who cannot allege any weighty impropriety against them."
VIII. The THIRD Postulate.
BUT all things cannot be of ancient establishment; and a power is required to ordain new things, as circumstances may call for. This power evidently must be in the Church, as a body; even as such things are regulated in all civil bodies of men. Not, however, for matters of Doctrine (as has been falsely objected to us), for that remains ever the same; but in matters of order and discipline. What Scripture directs, is a matter of imperative duty: what reason evidently deduces therefrom, comes next: and what the voice of the Church declares, in the absence of Scripture injunction, ought to overrule all inferior judgments: and this evidently, on all principles of social propriety. Hence, the third postulate is, "That where no law divine, nor invincible reasoning argument, nor notorious public injury, makes against what the Church has instituted, even though it be but recently, her authority ought to weigh more than any mere opinion to the contrary; and to claim deference, especially from her own children."
IX. The FOURTH Postulate.
ALL human things, however, are mutable, and ancient ordinances may, from change of circumstances, become unsuited; yea, matters of apostolic practice, and even those of divine institution, may be, on certain occasions, dispensed with, without blame [Luke 6:4], after the example of the Saviour himself. In civil affairs, matters of urgent necessity have ever been regarded as causes of dispensing with general rules; and so it must be in religious ones. General laws are analogous to those of medicinal remedies, which in ordinary cases avail; but may even be hurtful in extraordinary ones. Hence, in every State, certain immunities and privileges, and exceptions are occasionally made; and the rules of equity are allowed to supersede those of strict law: and thus in the Church, as to the matters of holy ordinances, we should also be regulated. But, whereas men are not good judges in their own cause, nor at all proper to pronounce upon the occasions of their own exemptions, there must be some just, competent, and responsible authority, whereon the decision thereof must rest. This, as to the Church, cannot be in the Popes; for they are or profess to be irresponsible: but only in those persons whom the Law appoints with a certain discretionary power, as the responsible administrators of its own provisions. Hence the fourth postulate is, "That in cases of necessity, or for common utility's sake, certain ordinances profitable in themselves, may occasionally be relaxed."
X. Men's PRIVATE JUDGMENT not a safe rule.
IF, then, against those things wherein the Word of God leaves the Church to determine in her own discretion,-or against matters of ancient practice and authoritative ordinances,-the private judgment may be set up, and men be at liberty to adopt or reject, according to the variable humour of a warm or enthusiastic mind, what else but serious mischief must ensue? The gifts of spiritual wisdom which they pretend to herein, ought rather to lead them to Christian peace and charity; otherwise it is to be suspected as a spirit of delusion, unless it be accompanied with the further gift of miraculous demonstration, or at least of undeniably cogent and sound reasoning, whereby others may be at once convinced. And now, from general rules, we turn to particulars.
XI. Of PLACES for Public Worship.
SOLEMN public services must have some regular suitable place wherein to be performed. Adam in Paradise seems to have had a place whereat "to present himself before the Lord;" [Gen 3:8] as the sons of Adam also had, whither to bring their sacrifices [Gen 4:3]: the Patriarchs had altars, and other places [Gen 13:4; 22:1]. In the wilderness, the lsraelites, though journeying, had a divinely-appointed Tabernacle; and when settled in Jerusalem, an equally solemnly-appointed and glorious Temple, even at "the place where the Lord their God did choose [Deut 12:5]." And after their return from captivity a second one was reared, in the place of the first that had been destroyed. Moreover, they had Synagogues for ordinary worship. And both these were sanctioned by the attendance there of the SAVIOUR himself, and his Apostles. Primitive Christians, however, being excluded from power, were obliged in the first instance to assemble in private places, for fear of persecution. By degrees, as their numbers increased, they were permitted to erect humble spots called Oratories; and at length, when the hearts of kings, by God's grace, were turned to Christian truth, Temples were erected, with such cost and splendour, as might redound at once to the glory of God, by an exhibition of largeness of heart on the part of His worshipping people. But what, alas, in their days, and up to this present time, had always been thought noble and praiseworthy, has lately been called in question; and we who worship in the very churches which their hands made, or which have been built after their model, are taxed with the sin of superstitious idolatry, and the Churches themselves have been maliciously termed temples of Baal!
XII. Solemnities in the ERECTION and DEDICATION of Churches defended.
AMONGST the first things that move this spirit of accusation, are the solemnities usual at their Dedication. There does not, however, seem any impropriety in a public ceremony, at the first erection and setting apart of a building for God's service; it is only a natural expression of reverence. It is also a sort of public notification of the entire surrender of right on the part of former owners, so that it cannot ever be reclaimed as private property; as it is also of the solemn public uses whereunto it is to be reserved. Hence, we have the example of Solomon in his dedication of the first Temple and of Ezra at the rebuilding thereof after the Captivity. And our Saviour seems to have urged the consideration of the Temple being a sanctified place, in his conduct to profaners of it [Matt 21:13; Mark 11:16]. The Apostle's expression also, "Have ye not houses to eat and drink in [1 Cor 11:22]," evidently makes a distinction between private houses, and that of God. Thus, therefore, we find, when Christianity had made progress, that Constantine had a solemn dedication of a Church at Jerusalem; and Athanasius records a similar instance on the part of a Bishop of Alexandria. We, therefore, dedicate or hallow Churches to testify that we thereby make them places of public worship, surrender them to God, and sever them from common uses. And if it be objected that idolaters do the same in respect to their temples, we reply that it is not impossible for them, in some external matters of God, to judge and act rightly.
XIII. Of the NAMES given to our Churches.
NEITHER are the names given to our Churches, after saints and angels, superstitious. The very name "Church," of itself signifies "the Lord's House:" and for distinction's sake, other names are appended, as those of Trinity, the Virgin, or the Apostles. But herein "nothing is done (as Augustine says) save in the way of simple memorial of dead men, whose spirits with God are still living;" sometimes in memorial of holy martyrs, sometimes of pious Christian benefactors. And even if the practice had been founded in superstition (which it clearly was not),-yet in these days at least, no use is kept, beyond that of mere distinction; just as we use heathenish names of days and months, without attaching any superstitious idea to the practice.
XIV. Of the FASHION of our Churches.
NOR yet is there validity in the objection, that our Churches are fashioned after the pattern of the Jewish Temple. In many points they are not; and, indeed, the only one which seems to hold, is that of their being divided into body and chancel; and that was done originally for a particular distinction, little observed now, between clergy and laity.
XV. Of the alleged SPLENDOUR of our Churches.
NEITHER is the alleged splendour of our Churches really objectionable. It is a sign of our grateful feeling, to adorn the house of God, in proportion to our means, and the circumstances of the times. And though true was the saying of the Fathers, "The best temples that we can dedicate to God, are our sanctified souls and bodies;" yet that answer was only given to an upbraiding made against them, of the meanness of their places of worship, which, through lack of ability to build better, they were obliged to put up with. And when times brightened with primitive Christians under Maximinus, they were filled with joy to restore their ruined churches, "reared up to a height immeasurable, and adorned with far more beauty in their restoration, than their founders before had given them." The Temple under the Law was sumptuously magnificent; and it seems but a natural expression of our pious gratitude and sense of God's majesty (as David intimates [1 Chr 28:14; 2 Chr 2:5], to employ things most excellent for His service, rather than those that are mean and base. It is a poor objection, that the money might be expended in charity; to which we may simply reply, "God, who requires the one as necessary, accepts the other as honorable."
XVI. Of the imputed SANCTITY of our Churches.
THE public worship of God being the end whereunto Churches serve, they have consequently a sacred character attached to them. And though in reference to God, true worship is acceptable in whatever place it is offered; yet in respect of ourselves, the very majesty and holy dignity of His house have a sensible effect, in exciting devout and holy feelings. Hence we consider the Church as the fittest place "wherein to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness."
XVII. Churches not to be RAZED on the allegation of having been abused to Idolatry.
NEITHER is the reasoning sound whereby it is maintained, that because our Churches were once abused to purposes of idolatry, they were not fit for future worship, but ought to have been utterly destroyed; even as under the Law God directed all places of idolatrous worship in Canaan to be razed to the ground. Idolatry is a grievously heinous sin, and pollutes all within its influence; at the same time, mere things which have been abused therein, having no moral guilt, do not require in themselves destruction. Besides, our case as respects idolaters, and that of the Israelites as respected the Canaanites, are not parallel. They were in peculiar circumstances, appointed by God as His special instruments for exterminating a grossly sinful people, with whom they were forbidden to hold intercourse; and all those places connected with their idolatries were to be utterly razed, while they themselves were to worship God in one place only, whereto they were to bring all their offerings and sacrifices [Deut 12:5]. But it does not follow that this rule is applicable to all times and all people: that we are to have no leagues and truces with superstitious or heathen people, but put them to the sword! As then, notwithstanding the precept for the extermination of the Canaanites, idolaters may be converted and live; so, although places may have been abused to idolatry, they may be purified, and remain undestroyed, serving a better purpose for the future. On these grounds, we hold to our dedication of Churches; defend the holy names given them, their form, and their suitable magnificence, not thinking their previous superstitious abuse any obstacle to our using them for a reformed, pure, and spiritual service.
XVIII. Of Public Teaching, or PREACHING; the first mode is by CATECHISMS.
THE service, as just mentioned, is a mutual conference and communion between God and ourselves. The true knowledge of God is the basis of all real happiness; and it is the chief object, therefore, of all religious offices, to impart it by a public Proclamation of His Word, called, by way of eminence, Preaching. This instruction by Preaching, however, has several modes, suited to the different circumstances of those taught. The first is by way of Catechisms, or an inculcation of elementary principles, suited to young beginners, compendiously drawn up from the Scriptures themselves, and publicly taught and explained.
XIX. A second mode of Preaching, is by Public READING of the SCRIPTURES.
A SECOND mode is by public reading of Holy Writ; after the same manner as the Law was preached to the Jews of old, in that "it was read every Sabbath day [Acts 15:21]." Hence our Church appoints the Word to be read publicly, by way of testimony or witness to the truths she teaches; and as fidelity is necessary in a witness, so it is necessary, the Scriptures being written in what are now dead languages, that the translations thereof should be faithful. And herein our Version may well be considered as such; giving the mind of Scripture, with neither corrupt interpretations on the one hand, nor falsified additions on the other. And the reading thereof is wisely appointed at such a period of the service, as that all may have an opportunity of hearing it for themselves.
XX. A third mode of Preaching is by reading the APOCRYPHAL BOOKS, and HOMILIES.
BESIDES the Canonical Scriptures, our Church also reads portions of others, called Apocryphal, calculated for practical improvement, and elucidation of Scripture itself. This has been objected to, on the plea that "under the Law nothing was used, but what was specially hallowed; and, that when the Jews were forbidden sermons under Antiochus, they did not presume to read the writings of any Paraphrasts, but confined themselves to the reading of the Law and the Prophets." But, herein we answer that the peculiar dispensation under which the Jews were, forms no parallel case for us. Nor yet, if the primitive Church read none other than the Scriptures, are we precluded from the practice, unless there be some law of God or of reason forbidding it. At the same time it may be observed, that the primitive Church gave the name of "Ecclesiastical" to what we call "Apocryphal," and used to read lessons from the Old Testament, from the New Testament, and also from books called Ecclesiastical, such as the writings of Clement, Hermas, etc. It has been found profitable, after long experience, and had not the effect of excluding the Scriptures, which are always largely read from, in our liturgy. Homilies are also used as a third mode of Preaching; being, in fact, a commendable method of supplying the want of sermons, used in former times as well as the present. There was, in early days of Christianity, another mode in use, viz. that of relating publicly the sufferings and actions of Saints and Martyrs; which was particularly suited to that period, as a help to confirm the minds of those who lived in times of persecution. But whereas this practice degenerated in subsequent periods, into the invention of improbable popish legends, and other follies, it has been wisely discontinued. It does not, however, follow that others, such as Homilies or Ecclesiastical Books, should therefore be given up. Besides, all men are so fully aware that Apocryphal or Ecclesiastical Books are not Canonical, that there need be no fear of their being confounded with Scripture. Moreover, they have generally been considered by the Church as being excellent, although there may be an occasional spot and blemish in them: and it would be foolish to deprive ourselves of the sterling gold they contain, merely because it may be occasionally mixed with dross. And hence we read the books of Judith, Tobit, Baruch, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus publicly, for the edification of the Church; leaving the others for the private reading of those that choose it.
XXI. Preaching by SERMONS not the ONLY way of teaching saving Truths.
IT may, however, be less matter of surprise, that the reading of books not canonical, should be objected to by some, when even the reading of Scripture itself has fallen into such neglect by them, that it is considered doubtful whether it be even an ordinary means of salvation, either read publicly or privately. In fact they have restricted the word Preaching, to the public exposition thereof by the living voice of a speaker applying it to his hearers; or, in other words, that nothing but Sermons may be called preaching, and those not gravely composed, but delivered extemporaneously, and wherein there is no opportunity of marking how they coincide with the Word of God. Now Apostolic sermons were indeed as Scripture to those hearing them; but not so ours, which are only to be gathered out of Scripture, and therefore Scripture is to us the only Word of God; and in that limitation the term will herein be used by us. The object of the Word of God is to give salvation, and hence it is called the word of life. This life eternal being offered to all, it is highly necessary that all should be put in the way of its attainment; and, to this end, the Word serves as a doctrinal instrument, or instructive guide, which saves by making "wise unto salvation;" hence those ignorant of it cannot be saved by it. Now this Word being an instrument appointed by God Himself, to work the knowledge of salvation in the hearts of men, may well be thought fitted to accomplish its object, for enlightening the mind in divine things, and winning the heart to their reception, for giving all necessary knowledge, and disclosing every truth tending to everlasting happiness. Being God's acknowledged Word, it thereby demands, as His Word, our implicit faith. This knowledge, however, like all other knowledge, requires at first some sort of guidance, to bring men acquainted therewith. And hence every method of making known the truths of Scripture, and thereby bringing men into the way of life, whether publicly or privately, is an ordinary means of salvation, which is not confined to sermons only. In the ancient church, the public reading of the Gospels, or that of a lesson from Scripture, was called preaching; and, indeed, men may preach with their pens, as well as with their tongues; and the apostles preached as well when they wrote, as when they spoke, the Gospel of Christ. Hence our public reading of their writings for the instruction of the people, is in every sense a proclamation or Preaching of the Word of God. We only argue however thus with those who contend exclusively for public expositions or Sermons; for we admit that every method of administering God's Word (accompanied with His influential Spirit) is a means of salvation.
XXII. Comparative EFFECTS of Sermons and Scriptural Lessons.
AND hence, in respect of preaching by sermons, we by no means derogate from it, but admit its great usefulness and efficaciousness, as a blessed ordinance of God; only we resist the arguments whereby the public reading of Scripture is sought to be depreciated. For it may be in the first place observed, that besides the direction given by St. Paul, for his epistles to be read [1 Thess 5:27; Col 4:16], in former times a great difficulty existed in obtaining the Word, when it could only be had by expensive written copies; and therefore the providing proper copies by the Church, and the public reading thereof, contributed as well to diffuse the knowledge of them, as also to keep them incorrupt. Next, this practice affords also an evident authentication of the Scriptures themselves, that they are the same which have ever been received and acknowledged in the Church. And also it furnishes the hearers with Scripture matter and knowledge, whereby to form a sort of test or standard of the soundness of sermons themselves. The objectors admit this reading may be beneficial, as an aid, after a religious principle has been planted; but that it is not effectual to originate the good work. We find, however,-- that the simple reading of the Law had a very striking effect upon the Israelites of old, in working repentance after transgression; as we know also that God appointed the reading of the Law, that men might "learn to fear the Lord;" and we also know that the Saviour intimated as much, with reference to the "hearing of Moses and the Prophets [Luke 16:31]." And though many may hear, and yet heed not, still this does not invalidate the argument, inasmuch as with hardened hearts the obstinacy may be the same under every method. At the same time we do not contend for this simple reading to be so effectual for the conversion of infidels; but for those brought up in the bosom of the Church, it is surely no mean instrument for salvation. In this respect, the Works and the Word of God are very different; the bare contemplation and perusal, as it were, of the works of creation, is not calculated to produce faith, because they reveal none of the mysteries thereof; but as the Scriptures reveal them all on acknowledged divine authority, they must necessarily have a very different effect. And, as reading of Scripture conveys to the mind the entire inspired truth, the ultimate object of which is salvation through faith, so he that reads what is written by inspired men, for that special end, may well be presumed to take a most effectual way of attaining it. Now, in maintaining their point about the superiority of sermon-preaching, the objectors, after all, act somewhat singularly; they say that reading of Scripture is profitable as an adjunct to sermons, in preparing men's minds for the reception of truth and helping them to remember it: thus perverting the Gospel to be a mere subsidiary, as it were, to sermons, and entirely omitting that the main object of the Gospel was, that it should be preached upon, and interpreted by competently appointed teachers. Faith proceeds from two operations of the mind, apprehension and assent. Some things are so plain as to be apprehended at once, without explanation, and others not so; but there are other modes of instructing in divine mysteries, besides sermons. Moreover, the assent of man to the doctrines of life eternal, is won from the authority of Him, whose words they are. And therefore, unless it can be proved that neither religious education, nor pious converse, nor studious meditation, are effectual to a comprehension of Scripture, and an acknowledgment of its authority, the pretensions of sermonizers fail entirely. An allegation is brought forward, from the words of St. Paul, "It pleases God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe [1 Cor 1:21];" and again, where speaking of the conversion of the Gentiles, he says, "How shall they hear without a preacher? [Rom 10:14]" But this is nothing more than a general direction after all, that the glad tidings of the Gospel must necessarily be made known unto men before they can be converted. The phrase, "foolishness of preaching," adverts not to the mode, by discussion or argumentative preaching, (for that the Gentiles were partial to,) but only to the subject-matter of their instruction, that is, to salvation through the knowledge of the cross of Christ; a doctrine to those only imbued with the wisdom of nature, must, as has been said, be made known, ere it can be received; but it by no means follows, that sermons are the only method of communicating it. If then the argument will not hold, even as to the Gentiles, still less will it in reference to those who have always been in Christian lands, and in the way of hearing Christian truths spoken of continually. In the same way, they allege other passages of Scripture, putting perverse constructions upon them, so as to make them bend to their own favorite notion of exalting sermons above Scripture itself; and thus making the wit of man (whence sermons spring) superior to that Word of God, "which is sharper than any two-edged sword," and which is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness [2 Tim 3:16]." Whereas we, following the plain declaration of Holy Writ, maintain that when we read or recite Scripture, we do thereby properly deliver to the people the Word of God: and as it is also an ordinance of God's appointment [Deut 31:12], we doubt not it will be aided by His blessing. The difficulties of some passages form no objection against reading the simple and plain ones, which are for the most part abundant, and amply sufficient for salvation unto willing hearers; for it is not depth of knowledge, So much as singleness of belief, which God accepts. But the objectors not only thus disparage Scripture, by exalting Sermons above it, and above every other means of grace -- above Sacraments and Prayer; but they likewise utterly deny, that the reading of Scripture, or Homilies, or Sermons, can ever by the ordinary grace of God save any soul. Whereas we ask, if the goodness and efficiency of a Sermon consist in its matter -- in its evidence, strength, and validity of arguments and proofs, or in any thing else that words may contain,-- what is there of all this in the best Sermons being uttered, which they lose in being read? In fine, it seems that there being various modes of communicating religious knowledge, either by public reading of the Scriptures themselves, or by Homilies explanatory of them, or by the perusal of books privately, or by hearing Sermons publicly,-- though all of them be, and are in themselves, effectual, yet this latter by Sermons, because perhaps of its operations being more sensibly noted at the time, from various things connected with a public delivery, has grown into an over-estimation; and from the other modes being unfoundedly, in the first instance, thought less effectual, they have still further been disparaged, as being, without Sermons accompanying, not effectual at all. An opinion clearly unwarranted, both by the Word of God, and the opinion and practice of the Church of Christ in all ages.
XXIII. On PRAYER.
IN close connection with Doctrine, is Prayer; and both together may be well taken to illustrate the notion of angelic intercourse between earth and heaven: the Hearing of the Gospel being the reception, as it were, of heavenly messengers from God; and Prayer being the response We send back by them to Him. It is the very nature of the Supreme Good, to delight in imparting of itself; and Prayer, therefore, is most consonant and acceptable to God. And hence Prayer is often used for religious service in general; inasmuch as none can be considered complete without it; and the House of God is in Scripture emphatically denominated the "House of Prayer." [Matt 21:13] Not only is Prayer a duty to ourselves, but also to our neighbor; Since it is the most effectual mode we can take of doing good to all, whatever be their station, or circumstances, or tempers. When, through inability on our own part to bestow, or disinclination on theirs to receive, we can help them in no other way, we may do so effectually by Prayer for them. Wherefore holy Samuel said to the Israelites, "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you." [1 Sam 12:23] And when we hold communion in Prayer, then our employment most resembles that of the blessed society in heaven. Hence, most heavenly gifts have been communicated to men, while thus employed. [Dan 9:20; Acts 10:30]
XXIV. On PUBLIC Prayer.
THIS duty is double: Private Prayer concerns us as individual men; Public Prayer, as members of Christ's Church. And inasmuch as the whole exceeds an individual part, so therefore the latter may be considered as ranking higher in importance than the former. Hence St. Paul attaches much weight to public prayer being made in his behalf. [2 Cor 1:11] And, indeed, it has many striking advantages on its side, tending to edification: in that the subject-matter of public prayer must be sound, to meet public approval; our own devotion in it warmed by sympathy of numbers; and a good example thereby given to the Church at large. And hence the evils of its neglect are proportioned to the benefits of its observance; so that well might holy David so frequently express his sense of its beneficial tendencies, [Psalms 30:4; 96:9; 43:4; 84:1] and in his period of exile lament his deprivation thereof more feelingly than of any thing else. ["Even prayer itself, when it has not the consort of many voices to strengthen it, is not itself." BASIL, Epist. 813.]
XXV. On the FORM of Common Prayer, or LITURGY.
AS the human heart and mind are powerfully aided by the solemnity of public devotional exercises, great care should be taken to conduct them with all propriety and reverence, befitting the majesty of Him whom we worship. When this is done, the very sacredness of the place itself is calculated to impart a character of holiness to our deportment and feelings: an impression arises of the more immediate presence of God, and of His holy angels, such as St. Paul's words import. [1 Cor 11:10] And as this reverence grows from the place, in the same way it attaches to him that ministers therein; whose authority, as the legitimately appointed interceder with God, and whose zeal, piety, and gravity, must needs be a still further aid to devotion. [They are no fit suppliants to seek His mercy on behalf of others whose own unrepented sins provoke His just indignation. "Let thy priests therefore, O Lord, be evermore clothed with righteousness, that thy saints may thereby with more devotion rejoice and sing!"] But the greatest help herein, seems to be that afforded by a public form of Prayer, framed after the model of those of regular primitive Churches, wherein extemporaneous effusions were unknown. Indeed no rational mind can mark the deformities in the undigested pourings forth of those, whose only appointment is the fancied private gift of the Spirit, without feeling the superiority of a Set Liturgy; and seeing sufficient reason why the use of it, by a regularly appointed ministry, in a peculiarly consecrated place, should be acceptable unto God.
XXVI. Objections against a SET FORM of Common Prayer answered.
DEVOUT Public Prayer being a universally acknowledged instrument of good, and a powerful means of edification in the Church of Christ, it has ever been the device of the enemy of souls to disparage and bring it into contempt; and hence has arisen a suggestion, that a set form of common prayer is superstitious. Whereas we find God himself appointed a set form of blessing for Moses to use [Num 6:13]; and we also find Christ giving a model of prayer to His disciples [Matt 6:9], as if almost to prevent this conceit of the excellence of extemporaneous prayer. Moses, likewise, composed a Hymn, in gratitude for deliverance from Pharaoh, which became a regular part of the Jewish Liturgy; and in this latter were sundry hymns, prayers, benedictions, and thanksgivings, gathered from various writings of holy men, and interspersed amongst readings from the law and the prophets. And we find the Saviour adopting a custom from it, -- of singing a psalm with His disciples, after the last supper with them [Matt 26:30]. The Apostle also speaks [Eph 5:19] of "making melody unto the Lord, in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs:" which must be either the result of immediate inspiration; or else, on ordinary occasions, of previous meditation, for the edification of the Church.
XXVII. Objections against OUR Form of Prayer.
INDEED, the objectors, after a while, seeing the futility of their accusation, admitted the expediency of a Set Liturgy: their charge dwindled away to certain exceptions against it, as containing things too much resembling those of Rome; as being too long, and thereby abridging the sermon; as repeating the Lord's Prayer too often; and having the Litany, Athanasius's Creed, and many other superfluous things. Hence the charge of error is abandoned, and matters are reduced to the mere test of opinion and expediency.
XXVIII. On the alleged TOO NEAR CONFORMITY of Our Liturgy with that of the Church of Rome.
As to our alleged conformity to Popish Liturgies, it would be violently extreme to assert, that the Church of Rome is to be followed in nothing. Though erring in some things, she errs not in all; and where she follows reason and truth, we hesitate not to adopt her ancient and excellent forms, in preference to the newer fashions of objectors. For, indeed, they seem to throw a disparagement even over their own forms; inasmuch as they leave it to the discretion of the minister, either to use some of them, or else to "pray as the Spirit of God moves his heart." And, moreover, their Liturgy, after all, is only appointed for preaching days, -- their rule seeming to be "no sermon, no service;" whereas we consider daily Public Prayer (even as the Church of Rome does) a complete duty in itself, whether there be preaching or not. In this respect we had rather follow the perfections of those whom we like not, than the defects of those we love.
XXIX. On the ATTIRE of Officiating Ministers.
THOUGH the attire which a minister of God uses be but a mere matter of form, and abstractedly in itself indifferent, yet there seems a decency and propriety in it, as giving a distinctive character to the person officiating. Indeed, we find the early Christian writers, Jerome and Chrysostom, both alluding to the clerical officiating costume of white robes, in their times. And our Church, in adopting them, seems only to exercise a sound discretion, in following to a certain extent the custom in the House of God under the Law; wherein His ministers officiated in robes especially appointed by Himself, for glory and for beauty [Exod 228:2]:" the color of ours being emblematical of that purity of heart, and lightsomeness of spirit, wherewith we ought to worship and praise Him that delights in holiness. [To solemn acts of royalty and justice their suitable ornaments are a beauty: Are they only to religion a stain?] And, indeed, the conduct of the objectors themselves somewhat singularly overturns their whole argument against the practice of our Church herein; for whereas at first they asserted, that the "Popish apparel, the surplice especially, has been a very sacrament of abomination, -- a scandalous ceremony, -- that causes men to perish, and make shipwreck of conscience;" and that "it ought to have been burnt and consumed as a thing infected by leprosy;" yet subsequently, after holding counsel with their brethren in foreign churches, they came to the conclusion, "that ministers might lawfully submit to the endurance of the custom imposed upon them by authority, and not give up preaching, or forsake their pastoral charge, for the bare inconvenience of a thing which in its own nature is indifferent." So that what in the first instance was so heinously offensive that it might not be adopted, "even though "(to use their own words)" it were to win thousands," now turns out to be nothing more than an inconvenience, which may be endured, rather than a pastoral charge should be relinquished! So much for the spirit of cavil and objection in those who set up themselves as the only fit judges of propriety.
XXX. Of GESTURE and CHANGE OF PLACE in officiating.
THOUGH it might seem to be almost debasing the solemnity of religion, to dispute on such frivolous points, yet a reply must be made to certain objections that have been raised against our practices of gesture; such as standing, sitting, kneeling, and bowing, at different parts of our service. Now, when we make profession of faith, we stand; when we pray and confess our sins, we kneel: because the gesture of firmness and constancy is expressed by the one, and of penitent humility by the other. In like manner, the minister proclaims, by public reading, the Law of God, so as best to be heard by his hearers; and they listen thereto in reverent attention. Some portions of the Liturgy, having been originally devised for the Communion, being profitable even when there is no administration of it, are therefore read at the Table. At the name of Jesus we are accustomed to bow, although no man is constrained to do it; and we only intend thereby a reverent regard to the Son of God, above other messengers from Him, in opposition to Jews, Arians, and others, who derogate from the honour of Christ. As for any erroneous estimation, such as is alleged, of advancing the Son above the Father and the Spirit, our belief of the doctrine of the co-equal Trinity saves from any fear of this sort.] Some things are uttered as from the people unto God, some as with them unto God, and some as from God unto them; and the whole is intended and arranged to promote that seriousness and reverend seemliness of devotional service, so right and proper, when in the presence of that God whom we fear. And further answer to such futile objections as are raised herein seems unnecessary.
XXXI. On the alleged EASINESS of our Form of Prayer.
IT has been made matter of fault, that our Liturgy is so easy that even a "child may perform the service." Surely this in itself should be no objection, if the matter thereof be good and edifying. Like all other prescript forms, it is true that it requires only orderly reading; and yet, though easy, still such a service demands the thought, gravity, and solidity, of mature age, to perform it fitly in "the assembly of the saints." As to extent of learning and aptness to teach, these have no place herein, beyond the ability of reading as behooves. Be it observed, however, that this affords no plea for clerical ignorance; there are many other duties wherein such talents are required of the clergy; [Even if all the clergy were as learned as the objectors require, how would this affect the Liturgy, seeing it would still be the same?] and it would be well if the conduct of the laity did not sometimes stint and cramp the motives and exertions towards greater attainments in such matters.
XXXII. On the LENGTH of our Service.
IN reference to Prayer itself, we may remark, that our Lord rebuked two faults therein: one, when open or public prayer proceeded from ostentation; the other, when length of prayer arose out of superstition. Hence, as public prayer is only then faulty when it arises from hypocrisy; so the length of prayer is not in itself a fault, except when it springs from error and superstition. Indeed, as St. Augustine well remarks, our Saviour reproved it not, otherwise "He would not Himself have continued whole nights in the exercise thereof." We must consider prayer, not only with respect to God, but also with regard to man: a certain length affords scope for detail of our wants, and gives also an edifying gravity and weight, which would be wholly lost by a quick despatch. Under the Law, portions of the Law and the Prophets were read, Psalms recited, and Prayers put up, in the synagogues: these seem to be as necessary now, after Christ's appearance, as before; and if thereto the reading of the New Testament be requisite, as it is, then the length of our service cannot well be cavilled at, unless it be insinuated that we cannot afford the time for devotion under the Gospel that was given under the Law. The Apostle himself recommends variety in public service [1Tim 2:1]; and so long as edification is obtained, no accusation of too much speaking can reasonably lie. [Hooker here somewhat sarcastically remarks, that as our Service at the utmost is not above two hours and a half, so it only exceeds that of the objectors by half an hour, -- a very grievous burden indeed to flesh and blood, and loudly calling for redress!]
XXXIII. On EJACULATORY Prayers.
ON the other hand, the objectors deride short Ejaculatory Prayers, such as are sometimes used, briefly and vividly to express the ardent desires of our souls: a practice approved by Augustine; which, nevertheless, they, in the spirit of contradiction, coarsely condemn.
XXXIV. On the intermingling of LESSONS with our Prayers.
THERE is an advantage in having Scripture Lessons mingled with Prayers. By natural constitution, one set of faculties cannot continue very long in exercise without pain; and we require change. Now, the work of Prayer kindles a spirit of holy contemplation in the soul, so that he who has been praying is thereby more attentive to hear; and similarly, he who has been hearing, is made the more earnest in prayer. In performing our service to God, we have to do with One who knows all our wants beforehand; and therefore, the service must not be compared or assimilated to our making petitions to earthly monarchs, or measured by what forms we might use towards them. indeed, the practice of the objectors themselves, in their own religious services, is a sufficient answer to their cavils herein.
XXXV. On our Petitions for EARTHLY blessings, and frequent use of the LORD'S PRAYER.
PREMISING, generally, that no alteration would save our Liturgy from their charge of tediousness, but such as pruned and pared away every thing to the exact model of their own, we may briefly remark on the objections in detail. First, our prayers are said to have "too many petitions for things earthly." Now, it is true that spiritual gifts are the most precious, and spiritual perils the most dangerous; hence our petitions ought to take rather a heavenly flight, than an earthly one: and so they always will do, in proportion to our advance in religious wisdom and knowledge. But Public Prayers are for the great bulk of mankind: and even as those that resorted to the Saviour on earth generally did so for some bodily relief, and were thereby led to seek for spiritual help also; so the very mention of our particular earthly wants in prayer may have the effect, as well of impressing a sense of our dependence Upon God for every thing, and of thereby leading us to look to Him for all, in the rejection of every sinful means; as also of imperceptibly elevating our affections to things above, and leading us to higher and heavenly interests. Our Lord's Prayer has indeed only one petition for earthly wants, out of seven: yet, perhaps, He may therein set forth rather a pattern of what we should aim at, in the way of perfection; whereas our Liturgy is framed somewhat with a view to men as they are, in order to bring them to what they should be. And hence our frequent use of the Lord's Prayer; placing it at the early commencement as a sort of guide, and introducing it frequently in the course thereof. And this we do, not only because of its intrinsic efficacy and value, but also because the use of it seems to have been intended as a special mark of distinction for Christ's disciples. Hence, indeed, the Fathers [Tertullian and St. Augustine] styled it orationem legitimam, the prescript form of Prayer, to which Christ had bound His Church; so that wherever Christianity obtains, the dutiful use of it obtains also. And (as St. Cyprian says) if it be promised, "that in His name what we ask we shall receive, must we not needs much rather obtain that for which we sue, if not only His name do countenance, but also His very speech do present our requests?" Surely, words so pleasing to God, as those which His own Son has composed, it is not possible for men to frame; and, in using it in its simple form, we are sure that we utter nothing which God will either disallow or deny. [We do use many other prayers, but none so frequently as this, for the causes assigned; and if the practice be edifying, trifling cavils ought not to move us from it.]
XXXVI. On the Congregation REPEATING after the Minister.
ONE custom in our service is particularly found fault with, viz. that of "the people repeating after the minister." Now, two occasions seem especially suited for its adoption: the first, at the General Confession; and the other, when, after having received the Communion, the minister and people repeat the Lord's Prayer together. [After the Restoration, the same rule was extended to the Lord's Prayer, wheresoever it is used in divine service.] In the former, all the congregation do individually and collectively acknowledge humbly blessed gifts of the Eucharist, they do, in unison of heart and tongue, offer up that effectual and comprehensive Prayer, which their Lord and Master taught them. And the edification derived therefrom is not to be sacrificed to any fanciful fastidiousness of taste, as to alleged harshness of sound arising from the voices of numerous utterers.
XXXVII. On our mode of reading the PSALMS.
AS to the mode we adopt in reference to the Psalms, "the people reading them alternately with the minister," it may be briefly observed, that there is in them so great a variety of matter, -- magnanimity, justice, wisdom, repentance, patience, the mysteries of God, the sufferings of Christ, the terrors of wrath, the comforts of grace, the works of Providence, the joys of heaven, -- in short, matters so every way suited to the varying feelings and conditions of man, in every circumstance of mortal probation, that we covet to make them familiar to all; and, therefore, iterate them oftener than other parts of Scripture, and call the people to join therein, in order to impress them on their memories.
XXXVIII. On MUSIC with the Psalms.
MUSICAL Harmony, whether of voice or instruments, has so powerful an effect upon the heart and soul of man, -- influencing the feelings, softening the passions, soothing the griefs, stirring the affections, and filling the mind with heavenly joys, according to the different characteristics thereof, -- that it greatly avails as an aid to devotion; elevating men's hearts, and sweetening their affections toward God. Hence the prophet David, skilled as he was both in poetry and in music, deemed both necessary in divine service under the Law; and the Church of Christ herein follows so wise an example. [Even those objectors who abrogated instrumental music, because it savoured of legal ceremonial, used and approved of vocal melody as an aid to devotion. It remains for them to show how one is more a legal ceremony than the other.] In church music, however, light and wanton harmonies seem utterly unsuitable. But where such sounds are used, as fitly adapt themselves to the matter, and harmonize with the solemn service, then hard must be those hearts that remain unaffected thereby, and wherein the sweetness of melody does not minister an entrance for goodly and spiritual things; so that we may well, with St. Basil, admire the wisdom "of that heavenly Teacher (the Spirit) which has found out a way, that doing those things wherein we delight, we may also learn that whereby we profit."
XXXIX. On Psalms and Prayers by ALTERNATE RESPONSES.
IF, in holy David's estimation, the very congregating of people together for worship did of itself form a bond of union; how much more may we hope that sweet charity and unity may grow between pastors and their flocks, when in the presence of God himself, and of His holy angels, there is a constant reciprocal interchange in holy forms of worship, and an interlocutory dividing between them of humble confessions and earnest petitions, and warm praises and grateful thanksgivings unto God; whereby they mutually, as it were, stir up each others' devotional zeal, to the glory of Him whose name they magnify together, after the manner of angelic natures, in the courts of heaven. ["I saw the Lord (says Isaiah) on a high throne: the Seraphim stood upon it; and one cried to another, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory." -- Is 6:1-3] It is somewhat uncertain when the practice arose, of chanting Hymns and Psalms alternately; and there are differences of opinion herein. It seems, however, not improbable that it was commenced, if not by Ignatius, yet in his days; and if so, in Apostolic times. Indeed, the celebrated letter of Pliny to Trajan seems to strengthen this supposition, which states of Christians, that they used to meet together and praise Christ with hymns as a God, secum invicem, "one to another amongst themselves." But whoever was the author, and whatever the time that this practice arose, it has been in the Church sufficiently long to ascertain its great utility, and to prove the unreasonableness of those who would set it aside; especially when they would do it on such frivolous pretenses, as that by alternately chanting men are deprived of half their share in the service, -- that they cannot so well understand after that fashion, -- and other idle cavils not requiring an answer. It is a practice received in all Christian Churches, -- held for many ages, -- ratified by Councils, -- resorted to by God's people of old for edification, -- calculated to excite holy desires, to banish evil thoughts, to soothe desponding minds, -- and, in brief, to elevate our souls to that heavenly condition, which the Apostle describes when he says, "Speak to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord." [Eph 5:19]
[It is not meant, however, that what is thus attributed to the Psalms depends altogether on the form we adopt in thus using them; but only, that as they have been found in primitive times, as well as ever since, when so used, to have these blessed fruits, there seems no occasion to alter what is, by experience, proved to be so good.]
XL. On the use of MAGNIFICAT, the BENEDICTUS, and NUNC DIMITTIS.
As we read the Psalms oftener than the other Scriptures, for causes already assigned, so a similar reason holds for our using the Evangelical hymns of Magnificat, Benedictus, and Nunc Dimittis, oftener than the Psalms; inasmuch as they concern us still more nearly, just as the Gospel touches us more closely than the Law. Indeed, were this not so, the very paucity of them, and the fact that in each case there is also a Psalm which the minister may use if he pleases instead, seem to render any objection on this head futile. But, as we have said, there is a peculiar propriety in their use in a Christian Church, -- they being specially Gospel hymns, the first congratulations wherewith the Saviour was welcomed, and the prophetical declarations of His actual presence; and, therefore, capable of appropriate and fruitful adaptation to the case of all those in Christian communion and interested in the precious blessings of redemption. [Just as the Psalms of David and Asaph were used by those in the Jewish Church that succeeded them, so may these Evangelical hymns of Simeon and Zacharias be used by us now.]
XLI. On the LITANY.
As the ancient Jewish Church had many public solemnities of worship wherein the people bore a share, so in primitive times there were some of a similar sort amongst Christians. Amongst these (as appears from Tertullian) were solemn Processions, as they were termed, used at the interment of Martyrs, and at subsequent visitations to their graves. The objects of these were by degrees extended into solemn periodical Supplications, for appeasing of God's wrath, and averting public evils: these were termed by the Greeks, Litanies; by the Latins, Rogations: both meaning the same thing, namely, Supplicatory Prayers. In the year 450, Mammercus, Bishop of Vienna, on the occasion of some great national alarms, after the example of former holy men, had recourse to God for aid; and on that occasion corrected and perfected the Litanies already in use, adding thereto certain portions suited to the present exigency, for averting impending evil. These Litanies were subsequently used by Sidonius, Bishop of Arverna, on occasion of a famine, and of one of the persecutions so frequent in those days: and, by degrees, they came to be considered as a great prop and comfort of the Church; so that, in 506, the council of Aurelia decreed an annual Processionary Service of three days, at the Feast of Pentecost; and about fifty years afterwards, Gregory I., in order to preserve uniformity in the Latin Churches, compiled from these various services one General Litany, for the use of all. Circumstances however occurred, that brought what was originally good into disrepute; and it was thereupon that the custom of Public Processions ceased. The Litanies used in them, for deprecating plagues, calamities, famines, wars, and other adversities, and for intreating God's clemency and favour, were therefore henceforward confined within the walls of the Church, after such alterations and corrections had been made, as brought them to their present state of excellence. Litanies, therefore, being of such very ancient usage, and the circumstances of man being always liable to peril and trial generally, both our own interest and Christian charity bind us to their use now, as well for our own benefit and protection, as also for that of all our brethren in the Lord, with whom, and for whom, it is our duty to sympathize and to pray.
XLII. On the ATHANASIAN CREED, and the GLORIA PATRI.
FROM the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ we received that brief Confession of Faith, which has been always a badge of the Church, and a mark whereby to distinguish Christians from Infidels and Jews. "This faith" (says Irenaeus) "the Church, though dispersed through the world, does notwithstanding keep, as safe as if it dwelt within the walls of some one house, and as uniformly hold as if it had only but one heart and soul; this it preaches, teaches, and delivers, as consonantly [uniformly] as if but one tongue did speak for all." In the beginning of the fourth century, however, under Constantine the Emperor, this unity of faith was sadly threatened. Arius, a priest of the Church of Alexandria, a clever but ambitious and disappointed man, began to broach that heresy wherein the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His co-equality and co-eternity with the Father, were denied. Deprived of his office, he nevertheless drew after him a number of followers, from amongst unwary minds. In order to allay the grievous disquietudes hereby occasioned, and bring back unity in the Church of Christ, Constantine summoned the famous Council of Nice, consisting of three hundred and eighteen bishops. Here was drawn up, by common consent, that Confession of Faith called the Nicene Creed; which was subscribed to by all, even the Arians themselves, who were present. It would seem, however, that this subscription by the Arian party was not made in good faith, but only with a view of preserving themselves from deprivation and exile, and of reserving themselves for future more favourable opportunities of spreading their tenets, after the Emperor's death. In the meanwhile, every method was taken by them of weakening, by sundry pretexts, the influence of their opposers; and particularly that of Athanasius, who, during his whole life, was harassed by their malicious persecutions and false charges; and though he always rose triumphant in refutation, yet nevertheless the object of his adversaries was somewhat answered if it were only by casting a damp upon the spirits of his friends, and deterring others from imitating his resolute course. And by a train of events, perhaps mainly owing to a sort of impolitic severity and negligence in the orthodox party, the Arian heresy insinuated itself, and spread; and Constantius, the successor of Constantine, in remorse for having too readily been influenced thereby, assembled a General Council of bishops of the whole world, on the controversy, to be held at two several places: the Western bishops, at Arimine, in Italy; the Eastern ones, at Seleucia. The Seleucian Council at once condemned the heresy, and excommunicated the maintainers thereof; but the Ariminian one, though having a great majority against it, suffered themselves to be outwitted by the policy of the minority, and joined in a subtle ambiguous confession of faith, drawn up by the Arians. Some good to the Church, however, arose out of these evils. Athanasius, about A.D. 340, drew up that Creed of his, which, by singular precision and plainness, went to clear and maintain that faith which Arianism so strongly impugned. It was first submitted to Julius, Bishop of Rome, and probably shown afterwards privately to the Emperor Jovian, for his information in true doctrine; but, because of the heat and violence of party spirit, it was not then publicly used, as now, in the Church. [It seems, however, that Hooker's opinion on this point is not well founded; from various considerations, it is now generally admitted, that this Creed was not written by Athanasius, but upwards of a century after his death (which was in 373). It, however, may fairly be considered as embodying the doctrines he held, and the grounds wherein he founded his arguments. For the history of its reception into different Churches, see Dr. WATERLAND's History of the Athanasian Creed, vol. iv. p. 241, et seq. Oxford Ed. 1823.] This Creed, and the Nicene one, -- which had an addition or two made to it by the Council of Constantinople, on certain points of dispute that had subsequently arisen, -- we retain, therefore, as Catholic Confessions of Faith, framed and approved by those whose opinions must have all the authoritative weight arising from their being so much nearer the times of the original promulgation of the Faith than ourselves; and used in the Church of Christ, generally, ever since. With respect to the Gloria Patri, wherewith we usually conclude our Psalms, it seems to be fitly so used, in the way of dutiful and joyful acknowledgment of His supreme excellency, which is so often the subject matter of the Psalms. It is, moreover, of very ancient custom: "We must," (says St. Basil) "as we have received, even so baptize; and as we baptize, even so believe; and as we believe, even so give glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." We baptize in these names; we believe in these names; and, therefore, we ascribe glory to these names. The Arians, seeing how this ascription made against their tenets, endeavoured to evade its force by altering its form, saying, "Glory to the Father, by the Son, and in the Spirit;" instead of "to the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit;" which latter form of ours at once declared the co-equality of all three. And yet herein, after all, their scheme will not bear them out; for although we acknowledge the glory of all three to be co-equal, yet the modes of its manifestation are different: for the brightness of the Father's glory has spread itself through the world by the ministry of the Son, and is evidenced in the gifts of the Spirit; and whatever we do to the Father's glory, is so done in the power of the Holy Ghost, and made acceptable by the merits and mediation of Christ. Indeed, it was only after Arianism sprung up, that such curious particularity arose. It was the custom of the Church to end, sometimes the Prayers, and always the Sermons, with the Gloria Patri; and St. Basil having, from indifference, used either form of ascription, was afterwards brought into serious difficulty thereupon, and, though an archbishop of known orthodoxy, could only excuse himself by voluminous apologetic treatises. On what ground, then, are we called upon to dismiss such safeguards of true faith and doctrine, as the Athanasian Creed, and the Gloria Patri, which have ever been so much esteemed and used by the Church? Even if Arianism be quenched, still, as formulae of sound faith, they may well be retained for their own intrinsic excellence; and also may be used as safeguards against Heresy generally. And in these days, especially, do we seem to require the support of every such bulwark, when Heresies seem to spring up as fruitfully and perniciously as ever; and when the authors thereof seem to have selected those very places as particularly suited to the growth and development of their pestilent errors, where this Creed has been permitted to fall into disuse.
XLIII. On our want of PARTICULAR Thanksgiving.
OUR Liturgy has been found fault with, because "there are no thanksgivings for the benefits for which there are petitions therein." Now, it might be replied, that if a special thanksgiving were requisite, corresponding to every petition, why is it not so in the Liturgy of the objectors? But, to waive this; the Form of Prayer given by our Lord has not such a correspondency; nor, indeed, can it reasonably be, in the nature of things. Many petitions are for graces that we continually need, and also for others that are never fully enjoyed in this life; and some are bestowed so diversely, and sometimes so imperceptibly, that they can only be acknowledged in some general form: and for this, the daily use of Psalms and Hymns seems best suited, wherein praise and thanksgiving are offered in warm and devout language, according to the Apostle's advice [Eph 5:19; Col 3:16]. At the same time, for striking public blessings or deliverances, we have indeed solemn special Public Forms of Thanksgiving, appointed, as is seemly, on the removal of plague, famine, or any common calamity; and not a poor recognition of it, in a few words thrust into an ordinary collect or prayer.
XLIV. On the alleged UNSOUNDNESS of some parts of our Liturgy.
FROM an evident spirit of cavilling, objections have been raised, 1st, Against the phrase in the Te Deum, "When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, Thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers;" as countenancing the error, that the faithful, who died before Christ's coming, were not till then made partakers of joy, but remained in the place called Limbus Patrum, or Lake of the Fathers: 2nd, Because request is made for preservation against "sudden death;" whereas the pious should be always prepared: 3rd, And also, because we pray that God would give us what "for our unworthiness we dare not ask;" which is alleged to savour of Popish servile fear, and not of the filial confidence of the pious: 4th, Likewise because we entreat "that we may be evermore defended from all adversities;" this being, as is alleged, a hope not warranted by Scripture: 5th, Because we implore "that God would have mercy upon all men;" which cannot (as they assert) be, to those that are vessels of wrath.
XLV. On the FIRST alleged unsound phrase.
IN reference to the first of the above-named objections, it may be observed, that Christ has opened heaven in such sort, that whereas none can be saved but by Him, and by Him "all that believe" are saved; the object and end of all His suffering was, to open those doors of heaven which our iniquities had closed. When, therefore, by His ascension He completed His great work, He did thereby virtually procure the salvation of all that are saved. What was the condition of the souls of the faithful before Christ, the phrase does not advert to; their bodies will ascend, as well in consequence, as also after, Christ; and if happiness was the portion of their souls, it was virtually procured by Christ's ascension.
XLVI. On the SECOND alleged unsound phrase.
AS to the second objection, though a good Christian life be the best preparation for death, and though, in a natural and general point of view, a sudden death might be desirable, because thereby preserving us from lingering and wasting anguish and decay; yet it seems more consonant to the feelings of a pious mind, that our departure out of life should be after the manner of holy Jacob, Moses, and other patriarchs; who ended their days in peace, and calm, and devout preparation, commending their souls to God, invoking blessings upon their posterity, and exhorting them to piety and virtue. Hence, good men may well prefer to endure some pains of dying mortality; as well with a view to have a convenient season for that solemn preparation, wherein the soul is often cheered and supported by illapses [=inflowings] of heavenly consolations and joys, as also for the edification of others thereby, and for the avoiding of those rash constructions which uncharitable minds are too often ready to put upon such sudden visitations of Providence.
XLVII. On the THIRD alleged unsound phrase.
THE third objection urged, against the confession of "our unworthiness and fearfulness to ask any thing, otherwise than only for His sake, to whom God can deny nothing," seems utterly groundless. It argues nothing of such slavish popish dread as is alleged; but it fitly expresses a sound apprehension of His supereminent glory and majesty, before whom we stand: from whence spring a reverential mode of speaking, and an humble godly fear, becoming our character as petitioners in the presence of the High and Mighty One. But in this fear there is nothing of despair: after all, we do ask those things, for which in our own names we dare not; only, however, with a holy boldness and confidence in the name and through the merits of Christ Jesus, -- with that filial awe which becomes saints, and not with that irreverent familiarity inconsistent with Christian humility.
XLVIII. On the FOURTH alleged unsound phrase.
THE next objection alleges, "That to pray for deliverance from all adversity, is to ask for that for which there is no warrant in Scripture." Now, men of real religious feelings view all the important events of life as in connection with God; and all the various emotions of pious admiration, joy, gratitude, and praise, may be comprehended in one sense, under the name of Prayer, -- which is, in fact, the opening of the heart unto God. Petitionary Prayer is the language of an impotent creature, sensible of its wants, for relief; made in the assured faith of God's ability and willingness to grant for Christ's sake, through whom alone it is acceptable to Him. But though the prayer of Christian faith be always thus accepted, it is not always necessarily granted; but only so far as is consistent with God's glory, and man's chief good. Hence the failure of the petitions of the saints is no certain mark of God's displeasure: the sacrifice of their lips is, notwithstanding, pleasing to Him; and the very withholding of their requests may be for their good [2 Cor 12:7-9], even as those of the wicked may be granted to their own punishment. Now, Prayer is a means to two ends: either to obtain what God has promised to grant, at our request; or to declare the desires of our souls towards that which, though lawful and good in itself, there is no assurance whether we shall obtain. Things in themselves unlawful, or things impossible (as the changing of past events), are altogether unfit subjects for prayer; but other things, though the counsel of God, secret to us, may have determined them otherwise, and being in this sense impossible, may nevertheless be prayed for. Our blessed Saviour, for instance, as man, prayed for things which He knew would come to pass; because prayer was a necessary and appointed means. [Compare Psalm 2:8 and John 18:1,2] But we know that He also prayed for things which did not come to pass; as when He prayed that the "cup might pass from Him [Matt 26:39; Luke 22:42];" because it was not consistent with God's purpose and glory, in man's salvation, that it should pass from Him. [Hooker here enters into a long disquisition respecting the two wills in Christ: a divine and a human one, -- consequent upon the union of the Godhead and manhood in Him: as also upon the different desires of the human will, -- the one the result of natural impulse, the other the offspring of reflection. Thus, Christ, as God, resolved to suffer; while, as man, his first natural prompting was to deprecate suffering as an evil; but, secondly, His deliberate judgment disposed Him to accept death for the world's salvation, and thus to fulfill all, as man, that, as God, He had determined.] Now, in this limited sense, we have a promise in Scripture, with reference to the faithful servant of God, that "whatsoever he does, it shall prosper;" and that "mercy embraces him on every side;" and hence we may properly pray to be delivered from all adversity, with the same limitation of it, viz., so far as is consistent with God's glory and our chief good. And in those cases where the secret counsel of God is against the effect of any particular petition, yet the prayerful affection itself is an acceptable sacrifice to Him, as showing the desires of our souls, and expressing our dependence upon Him, and our submission to His sovereign will: and as angels were sent to minister comfort to Christ in His agony, so the effect of our prayers, though the request be denied, will be to draw down upon us spiritual grace and edification. This is further illustrated by St. Paul's prayer for the Church of Corinth, that "they might not do any evil," [2 Cor 13:7] although he knew that no man lives who does not sin, and that our daily prayer must be "forgive us our sins." We must seek to be supported against every sin in particular, lest we fall under it; and, therefore, though we cannot expect to be so far preserved from sin collectively, as that no portion whatever shall cleave to us, yet still is it our duty to pray thus against all sin; and, in a limited sense, the prayer may be fulfilled, in our general preservation from great and grievous apostacy. Tribulations and trials often work different effects Upon the mind: to the lower faculties they naturally appear grievous, and to be deprecated; but, to the higher ones, they may appear as conducive to good uses, both in a moral and religious point of view, and therefore, to be patiently received and acquiesced in. Scripture confirms this latter opinion, to our comfort, in order to reconcile us the more to them. But, though it declare that "by many tribulations we must enter into heaven," yet it nowhere forbids us to deprecate them; neither does it frustrate our Lord's admonition, "Pray that ye enter not into temptation." Hence, the prayers of the Church, to be delivered from an adversity, are no more inconsistent with Christian patience and meekness under calamities, when they do happen, than our Redeemer's prayer before His passion, was repugnant to His own gracious resolution to die for the sins of the whole world.
XLIX. On the FIFTH alleged unsound phrase.
THE last of the fore-mentioned objections is, "That when we pray God to have mercy upon all men, we ask an impossibility; inasmuch as there are vessels of wrath, to whom God will never extend mercy." Now, first, this petition is in itself accordant with that catholic Christian charity and love for all, which Scripture enjoins us to entertain, and which the Apostle styles to be acceptable in the sight of God, congruous with His desire that "would have all men to be saved," [1 Tim 2:4] and also with His purpose who gave Himself "a ransom for all [1 Tim 2:6];" and hence, in a general sense, it maybe a means towards the conversion of all. The purposes of God are secret to us: we have no power to discern who may be castaways: he which now believes is a child of God; and he which believes not may yet, nevertheless, become such: and, therefore, as in a general sense it is allowable to pray against all sin and all adversity, though we feel the petition cannot be specifically fulfilled; so here charity leads us to hope the best for all who are yet in life, and whose repentance is not cut off by death, and thus disposes us to pray for all. Herein we doubt not that the act itself is good and acceptable in God's sight, even though His purposes and our petitions may be in some cases contradictory. And when, in an enlarged desire for the extension of God's grace and mercy, we pray for all men, our prayers are granted in behalf of those that shall be saved; and as to the others, we only act towards them in conformity with the direction of our Saviour to His Apostles [Matt 10:12f], that they should pray for the peace of such as might even be -- (unknown to them) -- incapable of the blessing. God's general Revealed Will must be taken as our guide, irrespective of any occasional Will secret from us; and when, therefore, the object of our desire is good in itself, and not forbidden of God, proceeding from charity, guided by piety, and conformable to the example of the Redeemer himself, then our deed cannot but be a sacrifice well-pleasing and acceptable to God, even though in some instances His secret determination be haply against us. Hence, our Church, following the goodly example of ancient times, and "acknowledging God's hidden judgment as a gulf which, while we live, we can never sound," does, with meek submission to His gracious will and pleasure, pray not only for all Saints, but for all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Heretics, and even for all men, that He would graciously have mercy upon all.
L. On the SACRAMENTS as divinely appointed MEANS of Salvation.
INSTRUCTION and Prayer are subsidiary duties to certain higher ones, of which Sacraments are the chief. The Church is that very mother of our new birth, in whose bowels we are all bred, at whose breasts we receive nourishment; and as many as to our judgment are born of God, receive the seeds of spiritual regeneration through her ministrations of the Word and the Sacraments, both which have a generative force and virtue. A Sacrament, properly so called, consists of two parts: a visible outward ceremony and substance; and a secret sacred gift or grace supernatural, such as only God can bestow. [How, then, should any but the Church administer those ceremonies as Sacraments, which are not thought to be Sacraments by any but the Church?] Upon this efficacious virtue of Sacraments depends their necessity; and, therefore, it behooves to inquire into the grace they are intended to communicate, and the mode by which this is accomplished. Now, Sacraments give a "grace that works salvation;" they are the instruments of God to eternal life. As our natural life consists in the union of body with soul, so does our spiritual life in the union of the soul with God; and this union between God and man can only be made by that mean which is both, viz., Christ Jesus. Hence we must consider, first, how God is in Christ; then, how Christ is in us; and, next, how the Sacraments do serve to make us partakers of Christ.
LI. On the INCARNATION of the WORD, who is VERY GOD.
"THE Lord our God is one Lord." But in this indivisible Unity we adore the Father, as being altogether of himself; the consubstantial Word, or Son, which is of the Father; and the co-essential Spirit, or Holy Ghost, which proceeds from both. Hence they are distinguishable from each other by their properties. For the substance of God, coupled with this property to be of none, makes the Person of the Father; the self-same substance of God, with this property, to be of the Father, makes the Person of the Son; and the self-same substance of God, with the property of proceeding from the other Two, makes the Person of the Holy Ghost. So that in each Person there is implied both the same substance of God, which is One; and also the peculiar property which distinguishes it from the other Two: each has his own peculiar subsistence, though others have the same substance: just as Peter and Paul have a separate individuality of person, though the self-same nature; or as angels have the same spiritual essence, though possessing separate individuality of existence, -- e.g. every angel not being the angel that appeared to Joseph. When God became man, it was however neither the Father nor the Holy Ghost, but that Person in the Trinity who was the Word, or the Son, that assumed our flesh; but yet the Word being in substance very God, the divine nature of all these was verily incarnate, though in the single Person of the Son. The salvation of the world was not simply in itself impossible without the incarnation of the Son, but it became so, because the will of God determined to save it only by the death of His Son; and thus, since the wisdom of God determined to save man, in one sense, by man himself, Christ therefore assumed human nature, and took unto Him our flesh, making it thereby His own flesh; and thus having of His own, -- although from us, -- wherewith to make offering unto God for us. Thus did God in Christ reconcile to Himself the world. And in this view there is a congruity in the Son's being incarnate, rather than the Father or the Spirit; inasmuch as we become the adopted sons of God through the natural Son of God, and the world was restored by that Word by whom it was originally created.
LII. On the HERESIES respecting our Lord's Incarnation.
IT is not in the power of man, however, either to explain or fully conceive this doctrine of the Incarnation, -- how God and man are united in one Christ. It is, indeed, the trial and test of our faith, that we should fully acquiesce in that which exceeds the grasp of our comprehension. And hence, from men's indulging in various conceits to explain, as they fancied, that which is in itself inexplicable, arose various Heresies; and especially that of Arius, who denied the proper divinity of Christ, -- which, for a long time, sorely troubled the Church. After the council of Nice, in 325, had decided about various heretical notions, others soon followed. The Macedonian heresy, denying the divinity of the Holy Ghost, and the Apollinarian, denying the proper humanity of Christ, were the occasion of a council at Constantinople, consisting of 150 bishops; wherein that Confession of Faith was drawn up, which is used in our Liturgy at the present day, as a preservative of sound faith against erroneous doctrine. After this sprung the Nestorian error, which went to deny that the divine and human nature made one person; and that, consequently, there were two distinct persons in Christ: an eternal one, Son of God, and a human one, Son of man. Now, St. John says, "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt in us [John 1:14]," that is, in our nature, an equivalent expression to what is elsewhere said, "He took not the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham [Heb 2:16]." The Son of God did not assume any one individual man's person, thus making two persons, the one assuming and the other assumed; but He took the "seed of Abraham," the original element of our nature, before it had any personal human subsistence: the flesh, and the conjunction of the flesh with God, began at one instant, and was one act, whereby the eternal Son of God, still continuing one person, changed only the manner of His subsisting, which before was in the glory of Divinity, and is now in the habit of Humanity. Yet, whereas Christ has no personal subsistence but that whereby we acknowledge Him Son of God, hence all that is spoken of Him, even in His human nature, must be understood of Him in His Divine personality. We must not sever and separate, saying, for instance, that it was only the nature of man that was baptized and crucified, but must consider and believe, that the Person of the Son of God, taking to Him the nature of man, did in that Person suffer what that nature made Him capable of receiving. He had a human substance, because He took the nature of man; but His divine Personality, as Son of God, suffered not the substance He took to be personal, although the two natures continued conjointly. Hence (against Nestorius) no Person was born of the Virgin, but the Son of God; no Person was crucified, but the Son of God: and hence that one only point of Christian belief, the infinite worth of the Son of God, is the ground of our belief, in all things concerning life and salvation through Jesus Christ. The heresy of Nestorius was condemned by the council of Ephesus, A.D. 431. But the line of argument to defend Christianity against Nestorianism led to the rise of an opposite Eutychian heresy: for as it had been held, that the divine and human natures in Christ made but one Person, this was by Eutyches wrested to mean that they made but one nature; thus confounding and blending divinity and humanity into one: an error that was denounced by the council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451. Our true path is, to avoid the distraction of Persons, wherein Nestorius erred; and the confusion of them, whereby Eutyches was deceived. The two natures, from their first combination, remained distinct, though inseparable; for when the soul through death forsook the body, His Deity forsook neither body nor soul: had it not been so, the Person of Christ could not have been said to be buried, nor yet that it did raise up itself from the dead; for the body, separated from the Word, could in no true sense be the person of Christ; neither, in raising that body, could He be said to raise Himself, if it were not both with Him and of Him, even while it lay in the sepulcher. And, by a parity of reasoning, the same must be held of the union of the Deity with the soul, otherwise we lapse into Nestorianism. The very Person of Christ was inseparably joined with both body and soul, even in their state of separation in the grave.
LIII. Christ's Divine and Human Nature INSEPARABLE, but yet NOT CONFOUNDED; the essential properties of each remaining the same.
BUT this union of two natures does not destroy or confuse the peculiar properties of each: what is peculiar to the Deity remains in Christ uncommunicated to manhood; and what is natural to man, His Deity is incapable of receiving. His omniscience, for instance, and omnipotence, eternity, and glory, belong to His Deity; and by His taking our flesh He was capable of being nourished by food as man, and to feel grief and pain, and other passions of humanity. The two natures are as incapable of confusion as of distraction; and yet, their coherence does not destroy the difference between them: flesh does not become God, but continues flesh, although it be the flesh of God; and of each substance the properties are separately preserved: manhood is not swallowed up in the Godhead, nor is Deity confounded with humanity. Though the two natures, however, are thus peculiarly distinct, yet they may both concur to one effect; and, therefore, Christ may be said to work both as God and man, in one and the same thing: of both natures there is always an association, often a co-operation; but never a participation, whereby the properties of the one are infused into the other. From this association of two natures in one Person, there has arisen a sort of interchange of the names, God and Man, when we speak of Christ. Hence, when the Apostle says they "crucified the Lord of Glory," or when Christ asserts of the Son of Man that He "is in heaven," if the passages be taken abstractedly, there is stated of the Deity that of which it is incapable, viz. passion; and of humanity, that which it admits not, viz. ubiquity. So that, in such instances, we must understand the assertion to be made of the WHOLE PERSON OF CHRIST, both in His divine and human nature. And hence we shall reconcile what seem apparent contradictions in the Fathers: e.g. Theodoret says "God cannot suffer," -- meaning thereby Christ's divine nature, against Apollinarius, who held the Deity to be passible; and Cyril, "whosoever denies very God to have suffered death forsakes the faith," -- meaning, against Nestorius, the inseparable connection of divinity with humanity.
LIV. On the RESULTS of Christ's assuming Humanity.
WE now come to consider the communion of Christ with the Father, and in what respects He receives from God. First: As regards His divinity, He has received the gift of Eternal Generation, in that He is the Son of God. Every beginning is a Father unto that which comes of it; and every offspring is a Son to that out of which it grows. The Father alone has His Deity originally; but Christ is God by being of God [Light by issuing out of Light]: what He has in common with the Father is given; and yet not given in the way of benevolence, but naturally and eternally given. Second: As respects His humanity, Christ received the gift of Union. His human nature has the honour of union with the Deity; and, in virtue of that union, all things are "given into His hands;" and it has pleased the Father that in Him "all fullness should dwell;" a name is given Him "above every other name;" and, in virtue of this gift of grace, Man is really made God. This union, however, does not cause any alteration in the higher nature: it remains unchangeably the same; and, therefore, the only thing acquired to the Son of God, by His incarnation, is a capability of enduring and suffering for the good of others. Nor yet are the properties of man's nature changed, by virtue of that union; only the state and quality of humanity is thereby glorified, and our flesh honoured by becoming the flesh of the Son of God: thereby Christ has become the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Peace, of the whole world; and God has deified our nature, not by turning it into Himself, but by making it His own inseparable habitation. Third: Christ also received the gift of Unction. Although the union of Deity with manhood imparted to the latter none of the essential properties of divinity, yet there were communicated thereby, both to the soul and body of Christ, graces and virtues of high value and perfection: a peculiar unspeakable illumination of the soul, arising from its intimate communion with Deity; and an illustrious glorifying of the body, rendered capable of endless continuance, and endowed with vital efficacy and celestial power, so that the angels in heaven adore it: in short, a divine unction, fulfilling the prophetic words of David, "That God anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows." Briefly to recapitulate: Four things concur to complete the whole state of our Lord Jesus Christ: -- His Deity; -- His Manhood; -- the Conjunction of both; -- and the Distinction of one from the other. Against these four points have arisen four grand heresies: Arianism, denying the proper Divinity of Christ Apollinarianism, misinterpreting His Humanity; Nestorianism, dividing the inseparable Conjunction of the two natures; and Eutychism, confounding them. And General Councils held: at Nice, to establish the doctrine of Christ's proper Divinity; at Constantinople, to maintain His Humanity; at Ephesus, to assert His being One in both natures; and at Chalcedon, to declare that He had still both natures in one Person. These four may indeed be considered as including the principles of all other heresies whatever, respecting the person of Jesus Christ; and in four words we may oppose an answer to each, viz. ALETHEWS, TELEWS, ADIAIRETWS, ASYNCHYTWS: truly, perfectly, indivisibly, distinctly. [Or truly God, perfectly man, indivisibly God and man, in one; distinctly, in that One, God and man.] And we conclude, that to save the world, it was necessary that the Son of God should be thus incarnate; and that God should be thus in Christ.
LV. On Christ's OMNIPRESENCE; how understood in reference to His Humanity.
As the benefits of Christ's incarnation and passion can only extend to those who are made partakers of Him, and as we cannot participate Him without His presence, it will be advisable now to consider how Christ is present; that it may more evidently appear how we become partakers of Him, as well in the Sacraments as otherwise. Now, no created substance can ever become unlimited, or receive such properties as to make it infinite; for then it would cease to be a creature. Its substance forms the measure of its presence. But God is omnipresent: His pure immaterial substance, incomprehensible to us, is never absent from us; which, although we discern it not, we know partly by reason, and more perfectly by faith. Omnipresence, then, is the peculiar property of Deity. Hence, nothing that pertains to Christ's humanity can be omnipresent. It is only in His Deity that He can exercise this prerogative of Deity. Thus, when we say He suffered death, it was as man that He suffered what human nature was capable of; but when we say He conquered death, it was in His character of Deity. Hence, when the Person of Christ is essentially present with all things, it is in that He is "very God;" and not in His manhood, because it neither was nor can be capable of such presence. As St. Augustine says, "In that He is personally the Word, He created all things; in that He is naturally man, He is himself created of God." And man being a creature of that particular kind whereunto God has set bounds and limitations, so the human nature of Christ cannot be present through all creation. If indeed it were, it must be by the grace of union accruing to it from His Deity; but this has been already disproved, inasmuch as it has been shown, that though these two natures were conjoined in Him, yet neither imparted to the other any of its own peculiar properties. [As to the grace of Unction, it only perfectionally advances His human nature, but does not extinguish it.] Hence Christ's body can have only a local presence, and not an ubiquity. It had a definite substance, and was not everywhere, when He suffered and was buried. Neither is it now everywhere, when advanced into heaven; for otherwise, if Christ's glorified body be everywhere substantially present, then the majesty of His estate must have extinguished the verity of His nature, and it is no true and proper body. [This is pointed against a prevalent error of the proper ubiquity of Christ's glorified body in the Eucharist.] But though it be thus that Christ, as man, is not omnipresent, yet because His human substance is inseparably joined to that Divine Word which is present with all things, then, because of this inseparable conjunction, that nature may, after a sort, be said to have an universal presence, which actually and substantially it has not. And as the manhood of Christ may thus in one sense be admitted to be virtually omnipresent, because that Person is so, from whose Divine substance manhood is nowhere severed, the person of Christ being whole, perfect God and perfect man; so it may further be admitted, from the co-operation of His human soul with Deity in all things. As the Deity of Christ before His incarnation wrought all things without man, so since then, He works nothing wherein His assumed nature is absent or idle. From the understanding and will of His human soul nothing is hidden or unacquiesced in, which His Deity performs. Now Christ, both as God and man, has supreme power given Him over all things, as the reward of His humiliation and obedience unto death; in consequence whereof, God has glorified that nature in heaven which glorified Him by obedience upon earth. All things are put under His feet, and He is appointed over all the Head to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all. This government He exercises both as God and man; as God by essential presence with all things; as man by co-operation with that which is essentially present. Moreover, in one sense, the body of Christ, though actually and substantially limited and defined, has a sort of virtual unlimited presence, as has just been said, because of its intimate conjunction with omnipresent Deity; and being the body of the Son of God, whereby He effected a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, this gives it a presence of force and efficacy, and enables it to have a kind of omnipresent sacrificial virtue throughout all generations of men. And hence in this sense is truly fulfilled the Lord's promise, "Lo! I am with you always."
LVI. On the COMMUNION between Christ and His Church.
PARTICIPATION in Christ is "that reciprocal inward hold and property which we have of and in Christ, and He of and in us." Now from the identity of the indivisible essence of the Godhead, there is a mutual participation and indwelling of the three Persons in the Trinity; the Father is in the Son, and the Son in Him; they both in the Spirit, and the Spirit in them; and this eternally. The Son, therefore, is in the Father, as light in that light out of which it undividedly flows; The Father in the Son, as that light continuously in the light which it causes; and as the same holds of their eternal being or life, the Son therefore lives by the Father. Hence, also, the eternal love of the Father to His only begotten Offspring: and this love reaches unto Christ in His manhood as well as His Godhead, in that His incarnation causes Him to be now in the Father, as man, and the Father to be in Him. And from the double communication of life to Him, first as the WORD, and next as man, there arises such a perfection of mutual love and communion, as can exist between no creature whatever and God. All other things, indeed, that are of God, have God in them, as the principle of their life, without which their annihilation must ensue. But because of the difference between created substance and Divine essence, the communion is of a far different kind to that between Christ and the Father. Thus all things which God has made, are the offspring of God [Acts 17:28]; they are in Him as the effect in the cause, and He is in them as their life [John 1:4,10]. And when to this is superadded a saving efficacy, then men, who were naturally sons of Adam, acquire a special relationship, and saints in Christ become the sons of God. Being in God not only naturally as their Creator, through the first Adam, but spiritually in Him as their Saviour, through the second Adam, the love wherewith the Father loves the Son reaches to those that are His spiritual offspring. [God, having eternally loved His Son, must therefore have eternally loved that Son's spiritual offspring: but they who were thus in God through Christ eternally, according to Divine foreknowledge and intent (Eph 1:4), require nevertheless a real and actual adoption into the body of His true Church, and fellowship of His children, in order to receive salvation.] There is a real, positive, mystical union, by which Saints form one Body, whereof Christ is the Head: we are in Him even as though our very bones and flesh should be made continuate with His; or as the branches are a portion of the vine: Briefly, we are the adopted sons of God to eternal life, by participation in the Only-begotten, whose life is the wellspring and cause of ours. It is too cold an interpretation by which some expound our "being in Christ" to mean no more, than that He took upon Him the self-same nature that we have; for in this sense, every man would have communion with Christ. The Scripture speaks of a far higher and more sacred coherence [John 14:20; 15:4]. Even as we have a participation with Adam as his posterity naturally, so have we, through grace, a real participation in Christ spiritually. Adam's corruption of nature is derived to all; but Christ's incorruption is derived to all that belong to Him: and except we truly be partakers of Him, and possessed of His Spirit, salvation cannot be ours. This participation or communion of the saints with Christ is wrought by the agency of His Spirit, which quickens us; even as it sanctified our nature in Christ, rendered it an available sacrifice, and raised and exalted it to glory. And, moreover, there is a communion between the Manhood of Christ and our bodies; corruptible naturally, they do, by virtue of the mystical union with Him, receive a vital efficacy, whereby they shall endure in immortality. Christ therefore is, both as God and man, that true Vine, whereof we, both spiritually and corporally, are branches. Now, Christ's work was undertaken, that the blessings of grace might be commensurate with the malediction through Adam; and this by a gradual process of a saving interest in His meritorious sacrifice, and in the virtues of His body and blood, followed by the sanctifying graces unto newness of life. But yet though all partake of His providence, as Creator and Governor, all are not partakers of His grace as a Saviour. Neither, again, of those that do receive this grace, do all receive in equal measure; and as our participation in Him consists in the effects derived to us from both natures of Christ, we therefore partake of Him more largely, or otherwise, in proportion to the measure of his imparted gifts, and to the true actual influence of grace, whereby the life we live according to godliness is His, and whence we receive those perfections wherein eternal happiness consists. [Christ, however, is whole with the whole Church, and whole with every part of the Church, as touching His Person, which can in no way divide itself, or be possessed by degrees and portions. But participation in Christ implies, besides this mystical presence of His Person, an actual infusion of grace.] Thus we participate in Christ, partly by imputation of His righteousness to us, partly, as has just been said, by a real infusion. And the first step in this, is an infusion of the Spirit of Christ [Rom 8:9], which is the foundation and source of all other graces, and is called by way of eminence "the seed of God [1 John 3:9]." And this Spirit does actuate and conjoin to Christ, their common Head, and to each other reciprocally, every Believer, however distant and separated by time and space; even as if He and they were compacted into one body, quickened by one and the same soul. Our participation in Christ, however, by imputation is not by degrees: being the imputation of acts and deeds, their virtue must remain in Him that did them; or it must pass as a whole [just as Christ's personal presence (as stated in the previous note) can only be as a whole], by virtue of His infused grace. Thus, all saints become the sons of God; in which state, though there be different degrees of excellence, yet touching this, "that all are sons, they are all equals. And thus the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father; both in all things, and all things in them: thus Christ has communion with His Church; and every member thereof is in Him by original derivation, and He personally in them by mystical association, wrought through the gift of the Spirit; which Spirit they that are His receive from Him, and therewith also all the benefit of His body and blood: they receive grace in degree sufficient to preserve and sanctify them, till their day of final and perfect exaltation to fellowship in glory.
LVII. Sacraments NECESSARY to a PARTICIPATION in Christ.
IT is a grievous derogation from the holy efficacy of the Sacraments, for men to consider them as mere means of instructing the mind by other senses than those of hearing; they have a far holier and more heavenly use. For, besides that they serve as memorials of Christ's blessed sacrifice, as bonds of obedience, as incentives to holiness, as supports of faith, as obligations to sweet charity, and as badges of sincere profession, they are also heavenly ceremonies, ordained of God, and sanctified by Him, as sure pledges of saving grace, given to all that are capable thereof, and as means which He requires to be used by those to whom He imparts grace. The invisible God appoints them as manifest tokens whereby we may apprehend when the blessings of Christ and His Spirit are imparted; inasmuch as, through these sensible means, He communicates those blessings which are incomprehensible: even as the troubling of the pool of Bethesda was a sensible token of the angel's presence; or the fiery tongues a sign of the presence of the Spirit in the Apostles. It is not God's will, ordinarily to bestow the grace of sacraments on any, except by the sacraments. The grace, however, thus consequent upon the sacraments, does not spring out of themselves abstractedly; it is only the gift of God, through them as moral instruments unto spiritual life, and not as food is a physical support to natural life. Hence, unless we have the requisite qualifications, though we do receive the sacraments, we receive not the grace of God therewith. The necessity of the Sacraments, therefore, arises from their being the means appointed by Christ, for communication of grace to His members; moral instruments, for the use of which we have His express commands, for the effect, His conditional promise. They are not mere naked signs, or simple memorials; but effectual means, whereby, when duly and properly received, God imparts unto us "grace unto life eternal." The sacrament of Baptism conveys the commencement of divine grace; that of the Eucharist, the continuation thereof: the former is required therefore but once; the other often, as gradually helping us forward to the ultimate consummation.
LVIII. On BAPTISM and its ESSENTIALS.
THE inward grace of a Sacrament may serve to teach what is the most suitable element of form; and unto these visible elements must be added words of express declaration from our Lord's appointment, to constitute their sacramental character. Hence three things are necessary to complete the substance of a sacrament: viz. the grace offered; the element signifying that grace; and the words of declaration. And whereas a religious action, to constitute it such, requires a serious meaning, and the known intent of the Church is such in these rites, we must presume that her public minister, who outwardly does the service, has inwardly the suitable intention; inasmuch as we cannot know his secret mind [this is applied to those who held that the validity of the Sacraments depended upon the secret intent of the minister's mind]. And as beyond these fore-mentioned requisites, all other forms in sacraments are merely accidental, although they may contribute to the greater decency and solemnity thereof; yet in cases of necessity and urgency it is better to have, for instance, the Sacrament of Baptism, even without its accompaniments of solemnity, than that any one should depart out of life without it.
LIX. The SCRIPTURE-WARRANT for outward Baptism.
SOME have said that no such necessity can exist, as to warrant Baptism without its decent solemnities, and they assert, that the notion arises from a false interpretation of the passage, "Unless a man be born again of Water and the Spirit;" wherein the former word is used metaphorically: and since being "baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire," meant only with the Holy Ghost, of which fire was the emblem; so in the above passage, "being born again of the Spirit" is all (as they say) that is really meant. But it seems an infallible rule in Scripture, that wherever a literal construction will stand, it is the safest; and when we find Water and the Spirit specifically mentioned, the one as the element to be used by us, the other the gift to be bestowed by God, it is a dangerous construction to imagine, that what is ordered to us is superfluous. And if further we find, that the Apostles (who had been, as we are, before baptized) were new baptized by the Holy Ghost, and in this later baptism as well with a secret infusion of the Spirit, as also with a visible descent of fire, it will be our safest course in the work of our new birth, which is to be by Water and the Spirit, to follow out literally what He has enjoined.
LX. How far Baptism is NECESSARY to Salvation.
As to the necessity of Baptism, Christ taught Nicodemus that regeneration was absolutely necessary to life eternal; and, moreover, that this was to be effected by His Spirit [John 3:3,5]. And as the Spirit is thus a necessary inward cause, so is Water a necessary outward means; else why is it so expressly mentioned and insisted on [Eph 5:26; Tit 3:5; Act 2:38]? And though outward baptism is not in itself a cause of grace, which in some instances has been conferred before baptism, yet ordinarily it is not a mere sign, but a divinely-appointed means, incorporating us into Christ, and conveying to us as well the saving grace of the imputation of His merits, which takes away all former guilt, as also the influence of the Spirit, which empowers the soul to newness of life. To those that depend upon God's eternal election, it is a self-deceiving vanity to suppose that means are thereby dispensed with. The Apostle [compare Eph 1:1 and 5:8] only pronounced those elect saints who had embraced the Gospel and received the sacrament of life; till then, notwithstanding any secret pre-ordination, he counted them children of wrath. Predestination brings not to life without the grace of external vocation, which of itself implies Baptism [as we are not naturally men without birth, so we are not Christian men without new birth, which ordinarily can only be by Baptism]. It is equally an error to hold, as some do, that faith alone is necessary to the attainment of all grace: sacraments are in their place as much required as faith. And if Christ require Baptism as necessary to take away sin [Mark 16:16], it is not for us curiously to inquire what may become of unbaptized persons, but to obey Him herein, and religiously to fear the neglect thereof. Yet this necessity must be interpreted by certain maxims of equity; for, as when it is said, "Whoso believes not is condemned," it is pre-supposed that an opportunity for hearing has been given; so in divers cases there may be life given by virtue of inward baptism, where the outward rite has not been afforded. Hence, he who had become a martyr for the faith, without previous opportunity of Baptism, is not excluded from the rewards of faith, the blood of his martyrdom being to him for Baptism. And, after a similar mode of reasoning, if those possessed of sound faith and Christian charity, be prevented by some unavoidable necessity from Baptism, we may not think them excluded, their very desire being as a baptism to them. As regards infants which die unbaptized: since grace is not tied to sacraments absolutely, and the lenity of God may accept the intention for the deed in some cases, the desire of their parents herein may be imputed to the offspring instead of Baptism. And, indeed, the very circumstance of their birth being from believing and baptized parents, seems to give them, as Scripture intimates [1 Cor 7:14], a sort of privilege and title to the ordinances of Christ's Church; and if, therefore, through some casualty, they be deprived of the outward sacrament, we may fairly hope He will not deprive them of regeneration and inward grace. And yet, although this be so, the lenity of God to them is no justification for our neglect herein. The Church is as a mother to her children, and it is her bounden duty to see they have their soul's rights, and not to deprive them thereof, for the sake of some more orderly ceremony of administration than the exigence of the case admits; for though they, through God's mercy, be saved, yet in that case blood-guiltiness lies at her door. Having no specially appointed day or time for its administration, as the Jews had, Baptism therefore belongs to infants from the moment of their birth; and those that contribute to deprive them thereof do, as far as in them lies, willfully cast away their souls.
LXI. On the things that may be DISPENSED with in Baptism, and on LAY-BAPTISM in cases of necessity.
HENCE, the ancient Church, though generally choosing two days for the public administration of Baptism, viz. Easter, and Pentecost or Whitsuntide, yet, in cases of manifest peril, permitted private baptism at home. And though its administration appertained only unto the clerical order, yet some sanctioned even Lay-baptism [neither Tertullian, Epiphanius, Augustine, nor any other of the ancients, is against this] where the necessity of the case admitted no other. What, then, are we to think of those who, because of the lack of some outward ceremony, would refuse the rite, even if (in their own words) "infants should be assuredly damned without it:" though, however, they do not, after all, admit this conclusion. We rather hold, that positive ordinances should bend to necessity, and that thus "mercy should rejoice against sacrifice [Matt 9:13]." Christ has strictly enjoined Baptism upon all men, but He has not so strictly limited its administration to be in public assemblies: and though public holy ordinances are good in themselves, and not to be omitted when practicable, yet they are in this place but the lesser matters of the Law; whereas Baptism itself is the weightier, which must be done, although, according to circumstances, the other may or may not be left undone. To argue otherwise, savours of a spirit of hardness quite at variance with the meek charity and mercy of the Gospel.
LXII. On Baptism by WOMEN, and on RE-BAPTIZING.
HENCE Baptism, even by women, in great and urgent necessity, has been allowed by some Churches, and with apparent reason. If want of calling frustrate Baptism, then it applies equally to that of laymen as well as women. The objection from the passage against women teaching [1 Tim 2:12; 1 Cor 14:34] avails not here; as that refers to public ministrations. Neither do general ordinary rules apply here, inasmuch as the case must be an admitted extraordinary one, to justify it. But when so given, is any one prepared to maintain that the rite is utterly frustrate, and as though it had never been given at all? Iteration of baptism is inconsistent with the Gospel declaration, "One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism." [Eph 4:5] "One Lord," as having no other conjoined with Him; "One Faith," as admitting no change or innovation; "One Baptism," as being the same means of grace for all, and only to be once received, inasmuch as, after the analogy of natural birth, we can only be once spiritually born. Hence the Nicene Creed, "I believe one Baptism for the remission of sins." The notion of re-baptizing originated with Tertullian, and was carried out by Novatian, on the plea that none but the true Church can give true Baptism; which Church he claimed himself only and his followers to be. Subsequently, the African Church, with St. Cyprian at their head, came into the notion that Baptism by heretics was invalid. But these novelties were well resisted by the bishop of Rome, and it came to be admitted that no heresy, but such as was unsound in essential articles of faith, could invalidate Baptism; and an Arian might be reconciled to the Church without re-baptizing [See Book III:1], provided his baptism had been in the name of the Trinity. As, then, heresy does not frustrate Baptism, still less does unworthiness of the minister do so. And yet from this notion, sprang the powerful heresy of the Donatists; and partly through the popular view of their tenets and their pretensions to superior sanctity, and partly because at that time what seemed a more dangerous enemy, viz. Arianism, had to be fought against by the Church, their error eventually spread far and wide. And when at last some zealous parties, in order to defeat them, unwisely trod in their steps, and caused Donatists to be re-baptized before admission into the Church, this called for Imperial edicts to restrain re-baptizing, as well on the one side as on the other; and men began to acquiesce in the truth, that evil ministers of good things do not prejudice the virtues thereof to others. Later times have renewed the error of re-baptizing, though on different grounds: the Anabaptist uses it in regard to those who have been baptized when infants; because he holds, that there can be no true Baptism without true actual faith in the recipients, which infants cannot have. Now, the Church of Christ always held, that whenever Baptism was seriously administered, in the same element, and with the same form of words, wherewithal Christ instituted it, no accidental omission or defect whatever could deprive it of the character of a true sacrament; and that, in such cases, re-baptizing is unlawful. And though God has appointed separate orders of men to minister in His Church, and publicly to dispense His sacraments, so that those who thrust in unsanctified hands to perform a holy office which is not theirs, are utterly wrong, and their conduct disallowed; yet it does not follow, that either the virtue of God's word or of Baptism shall be frustrated to the recipient. The unauthorized teacher loses his reward; but yet (since the law of God nowhere declares, that if the minister be incompetent, His word shall be no word, and His baptism no baptism) his usurped actions therefore have their virtue unto others; and the want of a lawful calling in those who baptize, makes not Baptism vain. For Baptism is a rite both moral, ecclesiastical, and mystical. As moral, it is a duty performed to God; and, as such, it requires a religious affection, as well as an outward act, an opus operantis, as well as an opus operatum, to render it perfect. As ecclesiastical, its performance is regulated by the Church. As mystical, all that is necessary for its completeness is the element, the word, and the serious application of both to the recipient, together with the secret reference of the act itself to salvation through Christ. As then, though God require in elder ones faith, yet in infants that baptism alone, to which by virtue of their Christian birth they are entitled, if such baptism be complete in its mystical character, it is enough; and should irregularity exist, the blame must rest with the administrator, but the virtue cannot be lost to the recipient. The argument, from unauthorized jurisdiction among men, will not hold here: in social compacts all is settled and understood on both sides, and their violation is a grievance; but Baptism being a spiritual benefit, which God pleases to bestow through the instrumentality of men, if unauthorized hands give it, still it is a blessing, given to those that much need it, and is not prejudiced because the instrument is faulty. [The same process of reasoning applies to the argument brought forward from unauthorized baptism being as a fraudulent deed, or stolen seal: it will not hold; for God is the donor of grace in Baptism, through special men, for order's sake; but yet infants of Christians, as such, have a federal claim to it; and if they are put in possession, it is of what is their own after all, and they are not consenting parties to the irregular manner of its reception.] This view was taken by the Fathers; for, although there be in their writings passages against unorderly baptism, yet these resolve themselves into blame against the giver, and not into detriment to the receiver. St. Augustine even says, "But suppose it (Baptism) of very purpose usurped and given unto any man by every man that lists, yet that which is given cannot possibly be denied to have been given, how truly soever we may say it has not been given lawfully." Indeed, herein there is an analogy between natural and spiritual birth; for if in violation of holy wedlock, illegitimate births do notwithstanding take place, even so there may be spiritual birth although there may be faultiness in the transgressors of the laws of Christ's Church. The act of circumcision performed by Zipporah upon her son, when Moses, being for his neglect of it stricken with sickness, was unable to do it himself, is also analogous to this view. It was a case of necessity; and though therefore a breach of the law, in being performed by a woman, it was effectual and acceptable to God, as was proved by the speedy recovery of Moses. If, then, disorderliness did not prevent that from being a true circumcision, even so may it be in the case of Christian baptism. Since, then, the efficacy of the sacrament of Baptism does not depend, per se, on the authority of the minister, whose external office therein is an honour, which they who usurp incur blame unto themselves; since a mistake, originating in the misconceived opinion of the actions of others, cannot make those actions frustrated; since lay-baptism, and even that by women, in cases of necessity, has the sanction of the pious and learned in all ages, and also that of many Reformed Churches; since it is defended by some, permitted by others, and only disapproved by a few; therefore it follows, that though it may perchance through defects in some cases, lack some of the fruits, yet, after all, lay-baptism, having all that the ordinance of Christ requires, has the nature of true baptism; and it is so far valid, that persons who have received it may not be re-baptized.
LXIII. On INTERROGATORIES in Baptism.
SALVATION being only attainable through faith in Christ, a public profession of the Apostolic Creed is a necessary pre-requisite to admission into His Church. Now all doctrine consists either in principles, or in conclusions drawn clearly therefrom. The former may either be evident in themselves, or else revealed by the light of a supernatural power, to which we yield implicit assent on the authority of the Divine source whence they emanate. The mysteries of our religion, therefore, although beyond our comprehension as creatures, we firmly acknowledge to be certain truth, and this belief or faith is the first step of admission into the family of Christ. By faith in Christ. the love of God is secured to us; and this, because of its being His own gracious work in our hearts, inasmuch as every thing loves that which proceeds from it. And as faith is the foundation of a sacrament, so a profession of belief is fitly required, as a pre-requisite to the sacrament of Baptism. But as faith is a mere intellectual operation, it is not enough to have a conviction of the mind only; there must be an expressed resolution of the will to renounce the works of evil. Hence interrogatories on these two points of faith and obedience are pre-requisites in Baptism.
LXIV. On Interrogatories to INFANTS in Baptism.
BUT some, admitting the propriety of infant baptism, object strongly to the interrogatories put, inasmuch as to question those who cannot respond, is absurd. And yet it is clear that Baptism generally was never administered in the Church without such previous interrogatories, nor yet that they were ever omitted in the case of Infants. For although there be not actual faith in them, yet the very reception of the Sacrament itself has the nature of faith; it is the seed, which ripens and brings forth fruit, as the understanding progressively perceives and acknowledges the truth, the first ghostly motion, as it were, towards actual faith. If we account men believers, merely because belonging to the outward Church of Christ, though inwardly hypocrites, then much more may we account infants such, who not only have in them nothing contrary to faith, but have likewise had the grace of God given them, out of which belief grows. [Till they come to actual belief, the very "sacrament of faith" is a shield as strong as, after this, the faith of the sacrament is, against all contrary infernal powers; which whoever thinks it impossible is, undoubtedly, farther off from Christian belief, though he be baptized, than are these innocents, which at their baptism, although they have no cogitation of faith, are, notwithstanding, pure from all opposite cogitations, whereas the other party is not free therefrom.] [As to the objection, "that if infants be believers, they must be of the elect," it does not apply here. Such objectors can term all of their own party elect, although there may be many hypocrites; and, therefore, when Christ says of infants, that "of such is the kingdom of heaven," and, consequently, that they are elect, we may well rest the matter there.] Baptism is a solemn covenant between God and man, and as such necessarily involves reciprocal conditions, remission of sins and graces of the Spirit on the one side, and faith and obedience on the other. And that infants are capable of such a covenant, is evident from the law of God, which enjoined that of circumcision upon infants [Gen 17:14]. Baptism being for their inexpressible good, admits, as a covenant of mercy, that what they are unable of themselves to do, they may perform by others, whose promises herein are as equally available with a gracious God, as if they had been their own. Neither is this benefit to be denied to the children of evil or unbelieving parents. Under the Law, circumcision was not confined to the lineal posterity of Abraham, but was extended to proselytes, and even to purchased slaves, their masters being to them in loco parentis. Even thus, in similar cases, the Church of Christ may be considered as exercising a motherly care for the souls of the children whose parents are wicked, in admitting them into her bosom at the hands of those that present them; and as the Samaritan, "that showed mercy," might well be styled neighbour to the wounded man, so those, though strangers, who bring infants to be made children of God, may piously be styled their fathers and mothers in God, or godfathers and godmothers. And inasmuch as the promise made, is not their own, the Church requires it to be in such a form as if the child personally answered. Hence in every age of the Church, the promise was considered as actually that of the person baptized; just as in civil contracts, a guardian's engagements for the benefit of his ward are binding upon the latter, even though done without his knowledge.
LXV. The SIGN OF THE CROSS in Baptism a significant and advantageous ceremony.
THOUGH many ceremonies that formerly accompanied Baptism have been discontinued, as rather encumbering the rite than otherwise; yet since reformation does not mean total extinction, so we have retained one ceremony, that of signing with the cross, which has been grievously objected to, as being a mere invention of man, and not directed in Scripture. Before we proceed further, it may be well to define Traditions to be "such ordinances as were instituted in the primitive times of Christianity, by that authority which Christ has left to His Church, in matters indifferent; and as such, requisite to be observed till the like authority see reasonable cause to alter them." Hence traditions are not to be utterly and rudely discarded merely because they were of men's invention. Now the signing of the cross is a very significant ceremony, and as such is calculated for serious impression; not that it is used at all superstitiously, but only, as we express it, for a token, to remind us of our duty, and whose servants we are. [Ceremonies have more weight than is at first sight visible; they impress the imagination, and through it work more effectually upon the mind and memory, than the mere outward forms of them might lead us to suspect.] It was used anciently as a public declaration of "not being ashamed of the cross of Christ;" and was intended to confirm us in the path of duty, by a recollection of Him whose sign we took, as it were, in our foreheads, and under whose banner we vowed to fight. Hence St. Cyprian, encouraging martyrs, says, "Arm your foreheads unto all boldness, that the sign of God may be kept safe;" where he reminds them of this sign of dedication, as a reason against apostasy. And though persecutions of that sort exist not now, as in the days of primitive Christianity, yet contumely and reproach against the cross of Christ do to a grievous extent still prevail, causing a need for every adventitious help to enable us to bear up against contempt. And hence, although it be the faith of Christ in our hearts that arms with effectual courage, yet we consider this ancient custom as a good one, whereby the force of imagination operates as a help and aid towards the making us not ashamed of the ignominy of the cross. Neither ought this practice to be discontinued, on the sole ground that signings of the cross have been sadly and superstitiously multiplied amongst a certain party. Hezekiah [2Kings 18:3f], it is true, destroyed the serpent of brass when the Israelites superstitiously reverenced it. But this is no absolute rule, to destroy every thing simply because it has been superstitiously abused. It may be otherwise remedied. And as the brazen serpent, having answered its end, and being kept only as a memorial of past mercy, was necessarily destroyed, when the Israelites idolized it so far as to burn incense to it; so, on the other hand, the signing of the Cross, having present good, need not be utterly abolished, inasmuch as we can remedy the evil of papistical multiplied and superstitious use of crossing, in other things, by simply discontinuing them. The Papists, indeed, urge, in their adoration of the material cross, that they only do so because of the secret reference it has to the person of Christ, and that the worship thus paid, is virtually paid to Him. Common minds, however, are not apt to comprehend these subtle distinctions, and from such practices are prone to fall into absolute idolatrous worship of the thing itself; and hence, after the practice of Hezekiah, such a stumbling-block should be removed. But between the cross which superstition actually worships, and the ceremony of signing the cross at Baptism only, as a mere token of remembrance, there is a vast difference; and from the gross abuse in the former there arises no necessity to dispense with the latter, harmless in itself, and yet conducive in some respects to good; neither, indeed, is it a sound practice to attempt to cure evils by extreme contrarieties, e.g. to exchange prodigality for covetousness; for this is only to substitute one vice for another. Hence the cure for superstitious observances is not to run into a profane disregard of holy rites and customs, and to an utter abscission of them, merely because they may have been abused; but judiciously to bring them back to their original intention.
LXVI. On the Scriptural character of CONFIRMATION after Baptism.
IT was an ancient custom of the Church, after Baptism, to use imposition of hands, with effectual prayer for the illumination of God's Spirit, to confirm and perfect that which the grace of the same Spirit had already begun in Baptism. Prayer is a means of grace as well for ourselves, as for others, on whom our prayers draw down God's blessing; and in this latter case, it has been an ancient custom, on solemn occasions, to lay hands on the party prayed for. Thus Israel blessed Joseph's sons, imposing his hands upon them when he prayed [Gen 48:14]; and Christ himself, in the case of the young children, "laid his hands upon them and blessed them [Mark 10:13]." After our Saviour's ascension, the Apostles continued the custom of conferring spiritual gifts by imposition of hands [Mark 16:17]. But though miraculous powers were thereby conferred on believers, yet these had no power to communicate them to others; they might, indeed, instruct and even baptize, but confirmation in miraculous gifts appears to have been confined to the Apostles [Acts 19:6]. And, as we learn from the Fathers, that miraculous powers were continued in the Church for a limited period after the Apostles' times, yet the conferring of such seems to have been restricted to the Apostles' successors, viz. the Bishops. And when miraculous gifts ceased, the Fathers, nevertheless, held the practice of imposition of hands with prayer, as a profitable Apostolic ordinance, calculated to draw down ordinary gifts and graces in a further degree upon the persons already "purified and blessed by the waters of Baptism [Tertullian, ON BAPTISM, 8]," which rite Confirmation generally followed close upon. Their being disjoined, arose from the Apostolic practice of confirmation being restricted to Bishops; for indeed we know that when Philip had baptized, Peter and John were sent for to confirm; and hence ministers of inferior degree having baptized, the Bishops (as St. Jerome says) used "to go abroad, imposing hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost on those whom Presbyters and Deacons, far off in lesser cities, have baptized." Another cause of severance arose from the practice of infant baptism. Children having received the gift of grace in Baptism, and living in Christian families, were regularly trained by precept and example; and a good foundation was gradually laid, against the time when they should be required faithfully to discharge their duties as Christian men. And when this period of maturity arrived, being thus edified by Christian training, then Confirmation was given by imposition of hands, and prayer for their further blessing and edification; a practice which the success of Patriarchs, Prophets, Priests, Apostles, and Fathers, in their particular benedictions, may well warrant us in continuing, and which great blame lies at the door of those who neglect, as is too often the case in these times. For it is indeed, in spite of trivial objections raised against it, manifestly a profitable rite, warranted by Apostolic practice, (though not, in consequence, a sacrament,) calculated to bring additional grace: and as the Apostles had their first gifts of the Spirit [John 20;22] augmented to them afterwards [Acts 1:8], so, by Confirmation, the first grace of Baptism is cherished and strengthened to the recipients thereof.
LXVII. On the Sacrament of the EUCHARIST.
As in Baptism we have the origin and commencement of Divine life, so in the Eucharist we receive that nourishment which is necessary to its continuance. In our present state of spiritual warfare, we need constant supplies of grace. In the future life, indeed, where soul and body shall be without decay, our souls will no more require this sacrament than our bodies require food; but while we are in life, our Lord's words remain in full force, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." [John 6:53] Such as will live the life of God must "eat the flesh and drink the blood" of the Son of man; because without it we cannot spiritually live. And whereas in our infancy we are incorporated into Christ by Baptism, and receive the grace of His Spirit without being conscious of it; in the Eucharist we receive the same gift of God's grace in such a manner as, through faith, to understand its efficacy, to recognize Christ in it as the strength of our life already begun in Him, and to perceive and feel, not by surmised imagination, but truly and really, that we do receive supplies of Divine life, in the body and blood of Christ sacramentally presented. It being generally admitted that there is this real participation in Christ, and life in His body and blood, by means of this sacrament, and that the soul of man is the receptacle of the Divine presence; disputes have, however, unhappily arisen on the matter; and the question has been earnestly and even bitterly mooted, whether Christ be in the Eucharist, taken whole within man only; or whether His body and blood be in the very external elements? In which latter case, He must be received either consubstantially, i.e. by an invisible moulding up of Him in the elements; or by transubstantiation, i.e. the actual change of the elements into His real body and blood. Now, it would be well if men were content to receive the acknowledged blessing and gift of grace with silent gratitude, without curiously attempting to investigate how it was communicated; for the only effect of prying into such mysteries, is to cool the warmth of feeling for them. And much better would it be for us to imitate herein the Apostles, who, when the Eucharist was first instituted, and the Saviour blessed the elements which were to be (as the conveyers of His body and blood) the instruments of life, not only to them, but particularly to all that particularly received thereof, through them and their successors, in every subsequent age, did only devoutly and reverently admire; and who, when He gave them these blessed elements, and said, "Take, eat, this is my body: drink ye all of this; this is my blood," received them with all comfort, gratitude, and joy; and thereby taught us, that this heavenly food is given for the satisfying of our empty souls, and not for the exercising of curious and subtle speculations. Indeed, the Apostle's explication of our Saviour's words is sufficiently plain: what Christ calls "my body," the Apostle styles "the communion of my body;" and what the Saviour states to be "my blood," the Apostle terms "the communion of my blood:" evidently teaching that the sacramental bread and wine are called "His body and blood," inasmuch as they are the instrumental means whereby a real communion or participation in His body and blood ensues to the recipient, who is thereby incorporated, by a divine and mystical union, with Christ. [The cause being put for the effect; just as when Christ is styled our life, He being the cause of spiritual life to us; so the elements are called His body and blood, being the causes whereby His body and blood are verily communicated.] Hence, there is a real presence, although not in the external elements, but in the worthy receiver thereof. The sacraments indeed exhibit, but do not in themselves contain, the grace which God pleases to convey along with them. The acknowledged grace of Baptism is not in the elemental water; why should the grace of the Eucharist be held to be in the elemental bread and wine? No part of Scripture asserts this to be necessary. There being a real participation in Christ by every worthy recipient, it is enough; all curious inquiry into the mode how, is unprofitable and superfluous. And by this sacramental participation of Christ, even in His whole Person, as mystical Head, every such recipient becomes a mystical member of Christ, to him Christ gives the Holy Spirit of sanctification; he fully enjoys whatever merit and virtue there is in Christ's sacrificed body and blood, the whole effect whereof is a real transmutation of our souls and bodies from sin to righteousness, and from death and corruption to life and immortality: and all this by the omnipotent power of Him, who makes the humble elements of bread and wine the blessed means of fulfilling His own precious promise. [The declaration of Christ Himself, when He gave His disciples to understand that His flesh eaten "profited nothing" (John 6: 63), and that the word which He spoke gave life, clearly evinces that it was a mystical participation in Him which gave life.] In this sense, and no other, the Fathers maintained a real presence: a mystical participation in Christ, working an effectual transubstantiation or change in us, both of soul and body, from death to life. Neither a corporal consubstantiation of Christ with the elements, nor yet a transubstantiation of those elements into His actual body and blood, was ever held by them, or can be proved from their writings: the mystical communion was what they ever taught. There are, then, of these words of Christ, "This is my body," three interpretations: the Lutheran one of Consubstantiation, that "the bread is, before participation, really the natural substance of His body, in virtue of the co-existence which His omnipotent body has with the consecrated element;" the Popish one of transubstantiation, that "the words of consecration abolish the substance of the bread, and substitute Christ's true actual body;" and the Sacramentarian one, "that the consecrated element, through the concurrence of Divine power, is unto faithful receivers the instrumental cause of a mystical participation in Christ, whereby they receive all the saving grace which His sanctified body can yield." And as this last contains nothing but what the others acknowledge, nothing but what Christ's words teach, nothing but what the Church of Christ always deemed necessary, nothing but what is sufficient for a Christian to believe herein, and wherewith all Christian confessions agree, how much wiser it is to dismiss such subtleties as contradict our senses, or perplex our minds; and to cleave to this, whereto, after all, their arguments do all point; and wherein, as it were, they all unite to speak but one thing. He that has said of baptism, "Wash and be clean," has said of the Eucharist, "Eat and live." Let us, therefore, laying aside all carnal, curious inquiries about what is far beyond us, thankfully partake of His ordinance, in all the simplicity of faith, fully assured that He will therein, by His own power, fulfill His own special promise; so that, with the sacred elements which we take in faith, we shall also verily receive the body and blood of Christ, as a medicine to heal our spiritual maladies, to purge our sins, and to conform us to His own image in righteousness and true holiness, to the eternal welfare of our souls. Hence, whatever be the various opinions of men on these two sacraments in other points, the whole Christian world in this is agreed, that they are necessary: the one to initiate, the other to continue and perfect, our life in Christ Jesus.
LXVIII. On sundry alleged FAULTS in our Communion Service.
SUNDRY faults have been found with the Church of England, as to her administration of the Eucharist. 1st. That she does not administer generally, saying, "Take, eat," but particularly to each individual, "Eat thou, drink thou;" 2nd. That her communicants kneel at its celebration; 3rd. That she does not specifically prepare and examine them previously to admission at the Lord's Table; 4th. That she admits Papists before they have purged themselves from suspicion of Popery; 5th. That she suffers a few of her congregation to communicate, whereas she ought to use means to compel all to come; 6th. That she permits it privately to the sick. With regard to the first objection: since God by His sacraments applies the blessing of His grace to every man's particular person, that form seems most appropriate, which best conveys the meaning of Gospel-promises. No fault is found with the specific individual application, "I baptize thee," in the one sacrament; why should not that in the Eucharist be the same? The words of Christ, at its institution, are recorded in brief historical terms; and there is no certain evidence, whether He spoke generally to all, or individually to each: and indeed, were it otherwise, so long as we keep to the spirit of His institution, we may use such a form as is more impressive and edifying, more calculated to arrest the mind, and lead to devout and serious convictions; and this we conceive is done far more effectually by addressing each person individually, when he receives the sacred elements. With respect to the second: we kneel, simply because that posture best befits us, as humble recipients of God's gracious bounty. As to the third, regarding previous examination of communicants: although we do not reject such examination, should circumstances render it advisable, yet it is not deemed generally necessary for us to call others to account; they are rather strongly exhorted to that best method, viz. "to examine themselves" seriously, before they approach so heavenly a feast. As to the fourth, which advocates the rejection of Papists from the Communion, because they are not (as is alleged) of Christ's Church: we would advert to the Apostolic distinction herein, which accounts those "who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to be His Church." And though there may be in that Church varieties in rites, strifes of opinions and schisms, as there may be parts sound and sick in the body natural, yet it is His Church, so long as it holds the profession of this vital substance of Truth, which makes it to differ from other religions, that acknowledge not "Jesus Christ as the Saviour of mankind." Indeed (as has been formerly shown) Hypocrites, and even wicked livers, Heretics, and Schismatics, although they belong not to God's true spiritual and mystical Church, may yet be reckoned of the Visible Church; and nothing short of utter apostasy, and denial of the faith of Christ, can exclude from it. In the eye of God, those are against Christ that are not truly and sincerely with Him; but in our eyes, those must be received as with Christ that are not outwardly against Him. Moreover, there is a great difference between impenitent and notorious sinners, and those whose imperfection is only error; and that, too, error without pertinacity. Hence there is no valid ground in the objection; nor should we, through a blind indignation at Popish errors, repel from the mysteries of heavenly grace those Papists who seek them at our hands, and who may even thereby be actually brought forward in the path of truth and holiness. As respects the fifth objection, against our permitting a few of our congregations to communicate: we confess that the larger the number the better, and the more acceptable to God; we should, therefore, use all methods of reasonable persuasion to accomplish a numerous attendance. But if from various causes, reasonable or not, men do abstain, the fault is theirs, the loss is theirs: only it would be a great injury to others, of better mind and feeling, to refuse them a means of grace because of the fault of others; or that the pious desire of a few should be unsatisfied, merely because others are careless or indevout. Lastly: "Private Communion to the sick" is alleged to have sprung from two causes, one erroneous, the other no longer existing: first, from a mistaken belief in primitive times, that whoever departed from life without ever having partaken of the Eucharist, could not possibly be saved, second, when, through the persecutions in those times, a person had apostatized, and having subsequently repented, was not yet received into full communion with the Church, if death came upon him, he nevertheless was permitted then to receive, for the comfort of his spirit, before his departure. Now, though persecutions exist not at present, yet there may be many cases where we may act mercifully, as in that just alleged: men may through various causes have been led away and deceived, and subsequently have had their eyes opened to see and acknowledge the truth, and to desire comfort from that which they before contumeliously despised: and shall we, in the hour of death, deny the oil of comfort to their bruised minds? Indeed, generally, the soul of man at that hour needs support; and the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the surest prop to comfort them; and that Sacrament whereby a particular union and communion with Christ is effected, acceptable at all times, is then most cheering, most supporting, elevating our desires, strengthening our faith of a glorious resurrection through Him, and filling us with all holy joy and consolation. Hence, our Church acts wisely, in not refusing to administer it at such a time.
LXIX. On FESTIVAL-DAYS; their origin and object.
GOD alone has true eternity; being without limitation, from everlasting as well as to everlasting. All things else are limited, as in other things, so in existence: the quantum of their continuance is Time, which may be considered as commencing with the instant of existence to the first created things, and to be measured by the motion of heavenly bodies; and hence, in consequence of their circular motions, periods of time will regularly return. And as God has chosen to hallow some places above others by His extraordinary [Ex 3:5] presence, so in commemoration of certain of His extraordinary works, He has given a peculiar sacredness to certain times, which all that honour Him are bound also to honour. Hence the Psalmist says, "This is the Day which the Lord has made: we will rejoice and be glad in it." [Psalm 118:24]
LXX. On the MODE of celebrating Festivals.
SPECIAL observance and hallowing of days and times being therefore evidently natural and proper, the mode and feelings wherewith we should honour and designate them, is next to be considered; and the expressions of the Psalmist just quoted, lead us to the conclusion, that Holy Festivals should generally be considered as seasons of religious joy; wherein we set forth the praises of God, not in formal show, but with cheerful alacrity, that our own spirits may have a holy elevation, express our warmth of heart, by an enlarged bountifulness, that others may thereby be made to rejoice and bless God, and repose ourselves, by a relaxation from ordinary toils, that our minds may as much as possible be divested from fretting cares. Or, briefly, the elements of a Holy Festival are Praise, Bounty, Rest. But in reference to this last, we must not mistake rest for idleness. Strictly speaking, God created nothing to be idle; and the sense in which we wish rest to be taken here, is a ceasing from the meaner labour of the body, to enjoy the higher, holier, and soul-elevating occupations of religious acts and contemplations. And hence, the Festival-rest is a sort of image and foretaste of that heavenly state of peace and joy, towards which all our hopes and wishes tend. Indeed, Festivals seem to be suggested by a kind of natural feeling. Hence the Heathens had theirs, corrupt however and gross, in honour of their deities. And hence, in order to secure the Israelites from so evil an influence, God himself was pleased to appoint certain holy Festivals, to keep alive the memory of certain merciful dispensations; and also, the modes wherein they were to be observed. [1 Chr 22:31] And, subsequently, the Jewish Church appointed two others,-the Feast of Purim and that of Dedication, mentioned by St. John [John 10:2]. [These, it may be remarked, were observed by Christ himself; Who thereby shows us that sacred Ordinances of man's appointment may be safely established.] And though, by the coming of Christ, the Law of ceremonial Ordinances is changed [St Paul's words (Gal 4:10) render this sufficiently clear: though, at the same time, he by no means condemns all sanctification of days and times to the service of God and honour of Jesus Christ; only that we are not bound to Jewish times and modes.]; yet Festivals, being (as is shown) a natural mode of exhibiting religious joy, are not thereby abrogated; but are only changed, to meet the altered circumstances, and to commemorate certain extraordinary blessings. Hence we hallow the first day of the week, to commemorate the spiritual restoration of the world; as the Jews hallowed the seventh, in memory of its original creation. And hence, commencing our Festivals with that of the Annunciation, we add thereto those of the Nativity, Circumcision, Purification, Resurrection, Ascension, Descent of the Spirit, and Mystery of the Trinity, as all relating to our one great Head. And as He was glorified especially in the lives of some of His disciples, so we commemorate them: selecting, however, only the very chiefest, as the blessed Apostles, the proto-martyr Stephen, the holy Baptist His forerunner; and besides these, we celebrate the holy Angels, the slaughtered Innocents, and the happy Souls now in fruition of heaven. And all of these are evidently good. The first, indeed, the Sabbath, as being of divine appointment; and the others being occasions whereon "we dedicate and sanctify to God the memory of His benefits, lest forgetfulness and unthankfulness should creep upon us:" for which we have a warrant, in that He manifestly accepted the Festivals appointed by the Church, even under the Mosaic dispensation, as in the cases already mentioned, of the Feasts of Purim and Dedication.
LXXI. OBJECTIONS against Festivals answered, and their UTILITY shown.
AN exception has been taken against Festival-days, that they have a tendency to confine and limit religious feelings to certain periods; whereas we ought always to be in a devotional state. [This is aimed particularly at our Easter, as being copied from the Jewish Paschal Feast, but it is clear that Easter was kept in Apostolical times.] Now, the Gospel of Christ does not require perpetual exercise of duties, but only a perpetual disposition or frame of mind inclining and prompting us to the exercise of them, whenever fit opportunities present themselves, or times require it. Duties of all sorts must necessarily have their several successions and seasons, and cannot in the nature of things be all discharged at once; hence, in regard to all God's affirmative precepts, enjoining actual duties, it has been wisely expounded that they bind us ad semper velle, but not ad semper agere: we are to iterate them whenever occasions offer, but are not tied to their performance without intermission. Now, the institution of Festivals seems well suited to the constitution of the human mind: the constant habit of well-doing can only be attained by a custom of doing well; virtue is to be perfected by a series of virtuous acts; and religious feasts are calculated, as well to afford a good beginning of holiness to children and novices in religion, by the religious inquiries and ideas which they prompt and suggest; as also to strengthen and confirm religious and pious dispositions by their frequent recurrence, specially directing men's thoughts into channels of holy and religious joy. Hence they are singularly profitable, and call for our devout and regular observance. It has however been objected, that God having left the six days in each week free to all men, it is not lawful for the Church to abridge any man of that liberty which He has granted, by directing rest on Festivals, which He has not enjoined, any more than it is competent for it to countermand that which He has enjoined. Now, this argument carried out, would go to prove that nothing can be instituted by human authority: and that every man is left to the freedom of his own will, in every thing, except what God has specially exacted or prohibited in His law: a thing plainly contrary to all the principles of civil government. Those things which the law of God leaves arbitrary, and at liberty, must be subject to the laws of men; which laws, for the common good, must necessarily abridge each man's particular liberty, in some measure, as far as the rules of equity will permit, otherwise all social order must be overturned. But the objectors admit, that according to a general direction in Scripture [Joel 2:15], human authority may appoint special days of Fasting, when occasions of public calamity call for public humiliation before God; and hence, by analogy, we might conclude that the same might be done on occasions prompting grateful thanksgivings for deliverance or blessing. And indeed, the injunction of Moses to the Israelites, when, on occasion of their deliverance from Egyptian misery, he tells them to "remember this day [Ex 13:3]," may seem as equally a general authority for the latter, as the words of Joel for the former. Briefly, then, without attempting to answer endless objections, we may fairly conclude that the Law of God, as well as of Nature, allows days of rest and festival solemnity, in memory of signal mercies; that, in in some cases, He has himself determined them; and, in others, has left it to the wisdom of the Church, directed by precedents, and enlightened by other means, to judge what may be expedient. And instead of cavilling and disputing, we rather bless God for the manifest fruits which are daily reaped from such ordinances as His gracious Spirit prompts our holy Church to appoint. On these grounds, we keep them with such marks of distinction as may clearly sever them from other days: not indeed with that servile, rigorous observance which marked the Jewish modes, which exalted forms above spirit, and literal adherence above the higher duties of charity, and which thus called forth the Saviour's remark, "Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath ordained for man [Mark 2:27];" but we observe them with the better sacrifice of a reasonable, voluntary service, with a joyful heart, and a grateful sense of God's mercies, exhibiting itself as well in praise and thanksgiving to Him, as also in sweet deeds of bounty to those about us; giving "glory to God on high," and showing "mercy and goodwill towards men:" and, at the same time, preserving what not only constitute the outward dignity of our religion, but also are forcible witnesses of ancient truth, provocations to present piety, and shadows of future celestial happiness. [An interesting corroboration of this is given in Smith's account of the Greek Church 1680. "Next to the miraculous and gracious providence of God I ascribe the preservation of Christianity among them, to the strict and religious observance of the Festivals and Fasts of the Church: this being the happy and blessed effect of those ancient and pious institutions; the neglect of which would soon introduce ignorance and a sensible decay of piety and religion, in other countries besides the Levant." And he goes on to show how the striking and permanent impressions, made upon men's minds by the various Festivals in honour of the chief events of the Redeemer's life coupled with the inquiries and conversations thereupon arising help to keep and confirm them in the faith, and form their best preservative against the poison of Mahometan superstition.]
LXXII. On Public and Private FASTS; Scripture-warrant for them, and advantages attending them.
HAVING thus spoken of Festivals, we now come to their opposites, viz. Fastings, or days of humiliation and sorrow: and these are either voluntary, according to men's own private feelings, or of public obligation, according to the wise regulations of the Church. These are not only grounded on the law of nature, but are acceptable to God, have been observed in all ages, and may beneficially continue to be so, to the world's end. A mistake, however, should be noted at the outset, viz. that fasting has no other object than the mere mortification and taming of the body: it has indeed this, but it has also something higher; it is a work of reverence towards God; and its object may be either elevation of mind or humiliation of spirit. The object of Moses' fasting, for instance, was divine speculation and contemplation of the mysteries of God; that of David, was humiliation for sin and transgresslon . Our life, therefore, being a mixture of good and evil, the Church of Christ, the most perfect school of all virtue, has taught us how both to joy and to sorrow, as Christians ought; and when that befalls which makes us glad, our festival solemnities set forth our rejoicing in Him who is the Author of all mercies: or when trouble is about us, then fastings with prayers show our condemnation of ourselves as the causes of our own misery, and our trust in His power and mercy to spare and to save. It, however, argues meanly of us, never to seek access to God, save under the smart of trial. And hence occasional sequestrations of ourselves for closer communion with Him are beneficial; wherein the fact of the soul being elevated with sublime meditations may cause as great a forgetfulness of bodily wants, as even an excess of sorrow might; and whereby we show our minds to be set on higher and heavenlier desires than things merely pertaining to the body. [The Apostle's argument (Rom 14:3), on "meats and drinks not commending or discommending us unto God," has no place here; it only refers to the Jewish ceremonial distinctions of clean and unclean meats.] We read, indeed, that John's disciples fasted often: and our Saviour not only implied an approbation of voluntary fasts, in His precept, "When ye fast, be not as the hypocrites of a sad countenance;" but, moreover, gave the promise, that when kept in a right spirit, they should "receive a reward:" only He condemned the hypocritical spirit wherein the Pharisees acted, and not the act of fasting itself. With respect to public fasts amongst the Jews, there are many examples in Scripture, both of those appointed by God on extraordinary occasions [Judges 20:26; 1 Sam 31:13], and at statedly recurring periods [Lev 23:16]; as, likewise, of those appointed by the Jewish Church in memory of extraordinary visitations [Zech 8:10]. Besides, also, those weekly ones of Mondays and Thursdays throughout the year. [In these Fastings they seem to have confined themselves to bread, salt, and herbs, to which perhaps St. Paul alludes (Rom 14:2). And though they did not fast on Festivals, yet it is probable that they kept the Sabbath partly as a Fast, not partaking of anything till the sixth hour or noon was passed: hence the force of St. Peter's reasoning in Acts 2:15.] When they fasted, however, it was not always exactly in the same manner; sometimes it was by a total abstinence from food [Jonah 3:7], and sometimes by a denial to themselves of agreeable food, as when Daniel fasted "three weeks of days, and ate no pleasant bread, neither tasted flesh nor wine." [Dan 10:2f] As to Christian fasts, though St. Paul mentions private voluntary ones [1 Cor 7:5; 2 Cor 6:5; Col 4:3], yet it does not appear that the Apostles appointed any set public fasts. We may, however, incidentally infer, from our Lord's words [Luke 5:35], that they fasted when He was "taken from them," and while He lay in the sepulchre [Good Friday and Easter Eve]; more particularly, as we learn from Ignatius, that it was the practice of the Church to keep the two days before Easter as fasting days, and Easter-day also as a festival commemorative of the joy at Christ's resurrection. In time, this keeping of the two days' fasting was weekly amongst some Churches, even as the Sabbath was a weekly festival of the Resurrection: some Churches, however, did not keep the Saturday's fast, but changed it to Wednesday. Hence the public appointment of these things rests with the Church to determine, as occasions may seem to make most expedient; and the observance of them (leaving out all considerations of the efficacy of penitence and fasting in themselves, as a means of obtaining God's mercy in Christ) seems to be the duty of every Christian that wishes, by a peaceful and orderly conduct, to do honour to his profession, and avoid bringing discredit to the Church whereof he is a member. It is true, that penitence is, even as prayer, acceptable to God at all times, be it in public or in secret; and hence some may urge, that it might be left to men's discretion when to use it. And yet we all know by experience, when such things are left entirely to men's inclinations, how frequently both the one and the other are neglected, and how much better it is that the Church should fix and appoint set times of penitence and humiliation, wherein her children should be effectually reminded and drawn to such duties; that so the multitude of grievous transgressions, which even the most righteous in it commit, may not clean pass away unsorrowed for and unrepented of. Besides, there are frequent offenses of a public kind, in our character of a religious body, or corporation of the Church, that need sorrowing for; even as such had a special sacrifice appointed for them under the law of Moses: and hence there is an evident necessity for some solemn public occasion to be fixed, whereon suitable acknowledgments and confessions may be made. [The commination, in the service for Ash-Wednesday, is an admirable preamble to a Public Confession-day; and seems to warrant the inference, that a body suitable to such a head was in contemplation, when it was drawn up, "towards the greatly-wished-for restitution of primitive Church discipline."] Feasts and Fasts, then, thus far correspond, that they have their foundation in natural feeling; and hence they have been observed by Heathens as well as Christians; joy being the cause of the one, grief of the other. They are neither of them acceptable to God simply in themselves, but only according as the heart and mind are right towards God in their performance: they have both been frequently abused by men's false estimate and wrong practice of them: they are both calculated, nevertheless, for the good of man; and yet man is not so tied to them, as that circumstances may not sometimes relax their obligation: and, as in Festivals, regard should be had to some men's necessity for labour to supply bodily want; so also in Fastings, regard should be given to their bodily weakness, lest by too much rigour they should suffer harm in endeavouring to do good. The discipline of fasts, however, seems more necessary to be urged than that of Festivals; inasmuch as the occasions requiring it are more frequent, as well from the frequent recurrence of our sins, as also because troubles are more numerous in the world than joys: and, moreover, we are naturally disinclined to that which is grievous to flesh and blood, although it may be medicinally good for the soul; so that both Solomon, and a greater than Solomon, judged mourning better (spiritually considered) than feasting [Eccl 7:4; Matt 5:4]. Fasting and austerity of life have always been held in estimation, whether morally or physically considered, as tending to restrain the sensual appetites, and to inure the body to hardship: as the opposite practice tends to render men licentious and ungovernable, from an over-fulness and pampered state. Hence the Church appoints Fasts, to keep alive the memory of signal punishments, and the sinful causes thereof, that men may be thereby warned; and also to discipline them to frugality of living; to undermine licentiousness; to exhibit to the poor what may tend to content them somewhat with their own fasts of necessity, when they see the rich voluntarily undergoing them; and also, finally, to give a public example of Christian humility being necessary for all equally; as on other occasions, praise and thanksgiving are the duty of all.
LXXIII. On the Ceremonies in our MARRIAGE SERVICE.
THE continuance of society on earth, by replenishing it with inhabitants, and furnishing saints for heaven afterwards, depends upon the union of man and woman; and God, therefore, left not man to be alone. But because things absolutely equal are indisposed to be directed one by the other, woman was formed not only after man in time, but inferior in excellence; and yet this in such sweet proportion as to be more readily perceived than defined. And as the offspring of man requires more trouble and time to bring it to maturity, because being of greater price than that of any other creature, the bond of union between man and woman must, therefore, be stringent and indissoluble. Indeed wedlock seems always to have been accounted something religious and sacred [the Hebrews termed their marriage rites "conjugal sanctifications"], even by Heathens [tous hierous gamous (the holy marriages). Dionys. Antiq. lib. 2]. Some customs in our marriages have been found fault with; such as restraining them from being celebrated during times of public fast. But surely, as Scripture says, there is "a time for all things [Eccl 3:11];" and the festive joys of weddings seem strangely incongruous with the mournings of humiliation. Our custom also of delivering up the woman by her father, or friend, is consistent with ancient practice, and seems very significant of the duty of submission incumbent on the sex. The giving of a ring seems likewise a fit and emblematic rite, serving as a token of purposed endless continuance in that state, and as a pledge of conjunction in heart and mind. But the phrase, "With my body I thee worship," is the thing most objected to. Omitting, however, other explanations of this, it may suffice to observe, that the ancient difference between a lawful wife and a concubine, was only in the purpose wherewith a man betook himself to the one or the other. If it were merely for association, no worship or honour [This is the proper meaning of the old English word "worship," viz. "honourable regard." See also our Prayer-book version of the Psalms, wherein it is said, "The Lord will give grace and worship to them that lead a godly life" (Psalm 84:12).] accrued to her; but if he meant to make her a lawful wife, he then professed to give her respect and due dignity; and the consequence of the declaration of such worship or honour was, that her children became legitimate, and herself was advanced to be the mother over his family, and a participator in his property, as is also further explicated by the subsequent phrase, "with all my worldly goods I thee endow." As to the objection against the advising the Eucharist to be received by the new married couple, it may well be replied, that nothing could be more suited to so important a solemnity, as that the parties thus united should show their union of faith by joining in that holy sacrament.
LXXIV. On CHURCHING of Women.
THE Churching of Women has been found fault with, as an uncalled for ceremony, but surely without reason; for although daily mercies call for constant thanksgivings, and these cannot be all publicly paid by all; yet there are some occasions wherein a special act of grateful praise seems required; amongst these, a prominent one seems to be the safe deliverance of woman from such a travail and danger as child-birth; and a public acknowledgment for such a signal mercy must surely be acceptable to God. Her temporary absence from the Church savours of no Jewish rite of purification, or of a superstitious idea of unholiness; but is a mere decent observance of custom, to abstain from public assemblies for awhile; as also her decent attire wherein to appear, and the trifling oblation to the minister, are equally unobjectionable in a reasonable point of view.
LXXV. On our BURIAL SERVICE.
WITH regard to the objections raised against our Funeral rites and customs, it may be observed, that they seem but a natural mode of showing our love for a deceased one, and of doing him a last honour as a man; and more particularly of comforting survivors, by reminding them of the joyful hope of a resurrection. Mourning for the dead is everywhere sanctioned in Scripture, as it is even by the Saviour's example at the grave of Lazarus; and an outward garb of woe, indicative of inward sorrow, seems also neither unsuitable nor opposed to ancient custom [2 Sam 15:30]. Indeed, honouring the dead seems to have been at all times a part even of natural religion, and, amongst the Jews, to have been shown by embalmings and adorning of sepulchres [John 19:40; Matt 23:27]]. Neither, as the Heathens were wont to have their funeral orations, and the Jews their funeral poems, is it unsuitable for Christians to have funeral sermons. The death of saints is precious in God's sight, and at such a time they may minister comfort as well as edification to survivors. But the chief object of all, in our rites of burial, is to exhibit and declare a token of our faith in the resurrection of the dead; and instead of leaving the corpse in unseemly neglect, to make its deposit an occasion of stirring up the minds of the living to devout and serious reflections. And indeed, whether or not any sanction can be drawn from the practice of the people of God under the Law [modern Jews have funeral prayers and funeral sermons, from which we might infer at least that it was their custom anciently], or of those in Apostolic times, the Church surely is not deprived of discretion or power to determine in a matter so plainly accordant to decency, and tending to spiritual comfort and edification.
LXXVI. Of the CHRISTIAN MINISTRY; its object and use.
WE now come to consider the subject of the Christian Ministry, the object whereof is God's glory and man's salvation. But religion contributes also to man's temporal good, as well as his future happiness; and the peace and prosperity, as well of individuals as of states, is intimately connected therewith; so that the priest is a pillar of that constitution, wherein he faithfully serves God. For though the wicked may sometimes be permitted to prosper; yet these, having no sense of God's providential goodness, and having their heart's love set upon worldly things alone, cannot be said to have the proper enjoyment of their temporal blessings: this belongs only to those who esteem them according to their real nature; not resting or staying thereon, but using them as instruments towards some higher good. And it is a gross, miserable delusion, in those base politicians that imagine the good of a Commonwealth to consist merely in the abundance of temporal things, without reference to the religion and morality of its people. While, however, godliness has the "promise of this life, and also of that which is to come," the former must be taken relatively, and certain limitations must be made. In man's present fallen condition too much prosperity might be injurious; and afflictions are sometimes needful and beneficial, so that the nobler part, the soul, may thereby be disciplined and trained to greater perfection: and, briefly, he may be deemed truly happy, not to whom no calamity happens, but whom no prosperity, nor yet adversity, is able to move from a right mind. On the whole, then, whether viewed individually or nationally, it may safely be pronounced, from the results of experience, that welfare even on earth mainly depends on true religion. This holds good, not only from a consideration of Heathen history, but more especially from that of the Jews, and perhaps not less so from that of Christians. Wherefore it is every Christian man's duty to labour to uphold true religion [see Section 1 for more on this head]. And this specially is the duty of Christian kings and princes, the chief glory and admiration of whom amongst men will ever be, if they have reigned virtuously, if honour have not filled their hearts with pride, and if the exercise of their power have been service and attendance upon the majesty of the Most High; if they have feared Him, even as their own subjects fear them; if they have tempered justice with mercy; and if the true knowledge of themselves has humbled them in the sight of God. These, indeed, are the happiest even of the mightiest; and there arises unto them not only an individual inward happiness, but outward blessings also concur, to interweave, as it were, earthly with heavenly felicity. There is a power in religion to shield from calamities, or to conduct safely through them; to give honour and wealth, or to turn the very withholding of them to beneficial ends. But religion is not able to plant itself, nor to produce those fruits without the help of a Ministry; and, therefore, the Church (the works of grace and of nature herein assimilating) requires means and instruments, subordinate to God's Spirit, for its establishment and support, that the household of God may be duly ordered, and that its members may have set before them the sovereign medicines of light and grace.
LXXVII. The Clergy a DIVINELY-APPOINTED Order, on the Ordination expression, "Receive the Holy Ghost," and on the motives in seeking Holy Orders.
THIS Ministry in things divine, being a function instituted by God himself, may not be assumed by men, except authority be given them in a lawful manner. He who gave us the light of heavenly truth has ordained certain persons (for it could not possibly be the business of all) to administer to the rest for the good of the whole, and whether, therefore, they hold their office immediately from Him, or mediately through the appointment of the Church, they are His ministers, and have their authority from Him, and not from men. Being Christ's ambassadors, they act under His commission, and the virtues of their high and holy function, such as preaching the Word of life, administering the grace of Baptism, and giving the Bread of Life, are such as clearly none but God can bestow. Those who are thus consecrated to God's service, are thereby severed from other men, and form a distinct order; even as St. Paul makes the difference in the Church of Christ, calling one part thereof IDIOTAS, laity or private persons [1 COR 15:16,23,24], in opposition to ministers or clergy, to which latter certain powers and jurisdictions necessarily belong. Those who have once received these powers are not at liberty to put them off, or resume them, at their own will; they are consecrated to God; and it is not in the power of man to dissever what God, by His authority, has coupled. Suspensions, indeed, may stop, or degradations may cut off from the exercise of powers, for misdoings, (even as separation may take place in matrimony,) but they cannot annul the indelible character that was originally imparted. Serious objections have been raised to the phrase in our Ordination service, "Receive thou the Holy Ghost." Now the Holy Ghost" may signify not the Person alone, but also the gifts of the Spirit; and, again, spiritual gifts do not only imply miraculous powers, but also the very authority which is given men in the Church to be ministers of holy things; and, therefore, he that actually gives such authority may reasonably use the form of bestowal. Moreover, our Saviour himself used the self-same words, when, after His resurrection, He gave to His Apostles their commission [Matt 28:19]; and after declaring, "As my Father sent me, so send I you," breathed on them, and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost [John 20:22]." Now, there must have been at the time a real donation of some kind: it was not miraculous power, for that was to be afterwards [Luke 24:49]. What other gift, then, is more probable than the one mentioned in immediate connection therewith [John 20:23], "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted; whose sins ye retain, they are retained;" a power of castigation and relaxation of sin, the giving of which fulfilled the promise formerly made, that His Apostles should have the "keys of the kingdom of heaven [Matt 16:19]." We use Christ's words, therefore, but not His action of breathing; because we are only delegates, and neither Spirit nor spiritual authority proceeds directly from us: but, at the same time, we are persuaded that He who originated the form, will confer on him that receives the function the promised gift; and that the Spirit shall be "with him, and in him," for his comfort and support in the faithful discharge thereof. And what a sacred dignity and grace is thus given to the Ministry, that the Holy Ghost, which our Saviour gave at His first ordinations, concurs with spiritual vocations in all ages, even as the Spirit which God derived from Moses to them that assisted him, did descend from them to their successors in authority and place. So that all our ministerial functions, as dispensers of God's mysteries, are not ours, but the Holy Ghost's! Enough is this surely to banish whatever might be deemed corrupt, either in bestowing, using, or esteeming the same, otherwise than is meet. It has been thought doubtful by some, whether such an office of dignity may be sought for by any man without offence; and that men should remain quiet at home "until the voice of God, or some circumstances occurring, seem to call them to such a charge." Now (omitting other remarks, as that the burden of the office itself, and the sort of contemptuous reproach that some throw upon it, preclude all imputation of ambition), it may be observed, that the world whereunto this power serves is commended, and the desire thereof is allowed by an Apostle to be good [1 Tim 3:1]; and if the desire itself be so, why may not the profession of that desire be good likewise? and, consequently, the necessary means to be taken for its proper accomplishment Even thus acted the Prophet Isaiah, when, in answer to the heavenly vision, "Whom shall I send?" he cried, "Lord, here am I, send me!" [Isa 6:8] And as to the appointment of set times for solemn Ordination, it is but a necessary orderly mode of useful expediency. Neither are inferior motives, such as decent honours and legitimate emoluments for our conscientious labours, entirely to be excluded, in the desire of such an office; only it behooves to take great care herein, lest affection for that which has in it both difficulty and goodness, pervert our judgment as to our own fitness, and thus we should eventually find repentance therein instead of contentment. Indeed, it does not always follow, that those who seem to draw back from preferment, do act entirely from humility; there may be a latent spiritual pride and vanity in many such cases; and the best rule seems to be that of the middle way, neither to pursue such things without conscience; nor yet from reserve and secret pride, to withdraw utterly from them.
LXXVIII. On DISTINCTIVE DEGREES amongst the Clergy; Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons. Other Church offices not properly ORDERS.
UNDER the Law, it pleased God to choose one tribe out of the twelve, that of Levi, to the functions of the ministerial office. And this tribe had not all the same duty, nor were all equal in dignity; Aaron and his successors being High-Priests over all, and the rest arranged in various grades below them, severally to discharge their respective sacred duties according to specified directions. Besides these, there were some called of God specially, from any of the tribes indiscriminately, at various times, termed Prophets, who foreshowed things to come, and counselled in such matters as the Law did not advert to; and some there were, also, chosen of men, as transcribers and readers of the Law, afterwards called Scribes and Expounders. Under the Gospel of Christ, the whole body of the Church being divided into Laity and Clergy, the latter are subdivided into Presbyters and Deacons. The term Priest, which is sometimes used, originally meant a person who offered sacrifice: and the Fathers of the Christian Church usually termed the ministry of the Gospel a Priesthood, in regard of what it has proportionable (or analogous) to ancient sacrifice, viz. the "Communion of the body and blood of Christ," although it have now, properly speaking, no sacrifice. It matters however little, whether we use the terms Presbytership, Priesthood, or Ministry, although perhaps, Presbyter might seem more suitable than Priest. For believers, being the adopted sons of God, and Churches the families of God, those, through whose ministry we are admitted into such relationship, may well have the reverend name of Presbyters or fatherly guides. In the New Testament they are nowhere called Priests; and, according to its language, a Presbyter is "one unto whom our Saviour, Christ, has communicated the power of spiritual procreation," to be a spiritual father. Out of the twelve Patriarchs issued the family of God in Israel; and the twelve Apostles are the patriarchs of His family in Christ. And thus, in the book of Revelations we read of twenty-four Presbyters sitting, one half the fathers of the Old Jerusalem, the other of the New [Rev 4:4]. Hence the Apostles gave themselves the title [1 Pet 5:1], in common, however, with others. Presbyters were not all equal in degree; they varied according to the measure of their qualifications. The peculiar charge of the Apostles was to publish the Gospel of Christ to all nations, and to deliver His ordinances by immediate revelation from Himself. This pre-eminence being excepted, to all other offices incident to their order they had power to consecrate whom they thought meet, even as our Saviour appointed seventy disciples as inferior Presbyters, but yet whose commission to preach and baptize was the same as the Apostles had. [Hence when the Christian converts became so suddenly numerous, as we read, (Acts 2:41-47) there was, in consequence, a sufficient number of Presbyters to minister to them. No doubt His prescience of this might be the cause of His appointing the seventy.] To these two degrees of Presbyters, appointed by our Lord, His Apostles afterwards added Deacons, whose original office was the distribution of Church goods amongst the poor, attendance upon Presbyters during divine service, and other matters of a similar kind. The Church has since extended the duties of Deacons, and has licensed them to preach; and this on reasonable and Scriptural grounds and example. For the first occasions for which the Deaconship was instituted having ceased; as the Apostles appointed them to relieve themselves, when, in consequence of the increase of converts, their labour was too great; so Deacons were subsequently employed by the Church in other, but not unsuitable, services, and they remain to this time a degree in the Clergy of God, instituted originally by the Apostles of Christ. Hence we see how long these three Orders have continued in the Church of Christ; the highest, that which the Apostles had; the next, that of the Presbyters; and the lowest, that of Deacons. Prophets, such as Agabus [Acts 11:27; 21:10], and others, were persons divinely inspired for some special purpose, and cannot be reckoned amongst the Clergy, inasmuch as they had not their power or authority by ordination, which alone can admit into the Clerical order. Evangelists were Presbyters whom the Apostles sent abroad, and employed as agents in ecclesiastical affairs, wheresoever they saw need; such as Ananias [Acts 9:17], Apollos [Acts 18:24], Timothy [2 Tim 4:6-9], and others; many of whom, we find, gave their possessions to the poor, and went traveling and preaching the Gospel to those that were strangers thereto. Pastors and Teachers also were Presbyters with a settled charge, differing only in that from Evangelists. [Some indeed, from certain texts in the Epistle to the Corinthians, (I Cor 12:28) and in that to the Ephesians, (Eph 4:7ff) would infer a much greater variety of Orders. But the whole tenor of Scripture considered, makes it plain that in those places there is only a distinction made; because of certain communications through the Spirit, of special grace to different individuals, for the mutual benefit of the whole; and by no means do they imply any peculiar Orders of regular appointment.] Hence it seems clear, that in Apostolical times the Church had only three degrees of Ecclesiastical orders; at the first, Apostles, Presbyters, and Deacons; and afterwards Bishops, who came in the place of Apostles. And to this the Fathers bear ample testimony: to quote but one, Tertullian says, "When your Captains, that is to say, Deacons, Presbyters, and Bishops, fly, who shall teach the Laity that they must be constant?" An error has arisen amongst some who confounded services and offices with Orders, and hence have reckoned catechists, readers, singers, etc., as Clergy. But though they may occasionally bear a part in sacred offices, yet when these are discharged, they are only as the rest of the Laity, never having been admitted or tied to their office by irrevocable Ordination. The Church of England, therefore, has only the same orders of Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons, which had their beginning from Christ and His Apostles themselves. [Deans, Archdeacons, Chancellors, etc., are merely sundry titles of office necessary for certain occasions, but in no way interfering with the constituted Degrees of Order.] As for the particular attire or habit beseeming each order to use, nothing further need be said, than that all well-ordered polities have judged it meet that different grades of men should have such distinctions for propriety's sake.
LXXIX. On CHURCH OBLATIONS, ENDOWMENTS, and TITHES; their sacred and INALIENABLE character.
THE practice of mankind but too often plainly confirms St. Paul's statement, that "covetousness is idolatry [Col 3:5];" for we see them, instead of honouring God with their wealth, honouring wealth as a god; thinking their substance entirely to be spent upon themselves; or, at least, that if they convert some small, contemptible part of their substance to His service, it is quite enough. But as we are required to devote certain portions of our time to His service, we are equally bound to bestow certain portions of our substance; for our riches, as well as the days of our life, are His. Indeed, how else can we give honour to whom honour belongs, or how else has God the things that are God's? Hence it has ever been admitted, as a clear principle even of natural piety, that we are bound to honour God, not only by a lawful and proper use of our worldly goods, but by offering a portion thereof to Him, as a grateful acknowledgment that all we have is from His benevolence, and as a token of His sole and sovereign dominion over all; and, also, as a constant practical lesson, reminding us that the world is not our own free and absolute inheritance. In reference to the quality of our gifts, they should be such, respect being had to the circumstances of the offerer, as beseem His glory to whom we offer them. Hence the fatness of Abel's sacrifice was commended [Gen 4:4]; and even the Heathens inferred, that nothing might be consecrated which was impure, unsound, or not truly their own to give. And in respect of the use to which they should be applied; as God stands in no need of them, and accepts them only as a token of our piety, and in order that they may tend to the support of religion, so our gifts, whether in obedience to Divine command, or proceeding from private devotional feelings to promote God's glory by upholding true religion, must then be most acceptable, when they have for their object the perpetual support of that religion. The first permanent donations of honour are churches for God's worship, which do most eminently forward religion; but of these it has already been spoken elsewhere [Section 2]. The next species of gifts are the ornaments of those Churches, memorials to remain as treasures in God's house, not only for present uses, but for the supply of future casual necessities; and to be testimonies to future times, that God has in every age and nation those that love to honour Him with their substance. The riches, first of the Tabernacle, and then of the Temple of the Jews, arising from voluntary gifts and donations, were enormous, and almost surpassing belief. These, however, became successively a prey to their different enslavers, the Babylonians and Romans. Such being the casualties whereunto movable treasures are subject, the next and more durable sort of endowment is that of lands. And hence the Law of Moses required twenty-eight cities, with their lands in Judea, to be consecrated to God. A further support for religion was directed in the form of tenths, or tithes; and as Abraham voluntarily gave tithes to the priest of God [Gen 14:20], and Jacob religiously vowed "tithes of all God should give him [Gen 28:22]," so the Law of Moses required a tenth from each man, of whatever increase Providence gave him [Deut 14:22]. By this general offering of tithes, the poorest may yield unto God equally in proportion with the richest, and religiously become peers with those to whom, in a worldly sense, they are inferior. Neither, after all, are such offerings lost, but they return to them again even with interest, through the blessing of God upon their substance, according to His own gracious promise [Mal 3:10]: so that whoever uses fraud in this respect, injures not God, but only himself, and the faithful rendering of them is "for our own good always." The Church of Christ gradually adopted and established the same mode as that under the Mosaic Law, of tithes, as being most natural and fit for the honour of God, in the support and perpetual maintenance of true religion; thus converting to eternal uses such temporal things as are in themselves most transitory. And to prevent loss and injustice herein, the truest way is for them to be given to God in the very selfsame things which, through His blessing, the earth yields, if it be possible, both because they thus come purer, as it were, to Him, and are given in their proper and actual value. [See Book VII:22 for more on this head.] The chief thing, however, and the main foundation, whereupon the security of these things depends, is that whatever is given unto God, should ever remain His own inalienable possession: and this on the self-same principle whereon gifts or endowments are regulated between man and man. And though, therefore, by the Mosaic Law, we are no longer strictly bound to Tithes; yet when men have once given and devoted such things to God, then there can be no question about the necessity of their being duly paid: even after St. Peter's argument to Ananias [Acts 5:4], "While it was whole, it was wholly thine;" but having been given, it was no longer so, nor was God to be then defrauded: and after the same reasoning, Tithes, having been once dedicated, are no longer our own, but God's. There are abundant Scripture evidences under the Law, that what had been given Him was to be held sacred [Mal 3:8; Ezek 45:1,4], and these are clearly applicable, not to the Jews alone, but to all that have honoured God with their substance,-whose gifts invest Him with the absolute ownership thereof, and which are therefore peculiar and holy unto Him. Hence it has ever been held utterly impious, to impair or diminish from those possessions which have once been dedicated unto religious purposes: and there was formerly a peculiar form of solemn execration against those who attempted such sacrilege. Examples have been of prelates, even at the risk of their lives, heroically defending the sacred treasures against the cupidity of the ungodly: and, indeed, there seems to be a sort of natural abhorrence of sacrilege, and a belief that its perpetrators cannot ultimately prosper. Many plausible pretexts and colourings, therefore, have been put forth, to conceal such base designs; but, independently of the consideration that the defrauders of God must one day suffer, the conscious turpitude of the very act itself cannot fail, in the mean time, to act as a cankerworm, and prove a secret but sore punishment. It is not held, however, that in no case whatever this rule can be relaxed, and that by no possibility any alienation can be made. Certain cases may occur, wherein we may presume that God is as willing to forego, for our benefit, what our Religion has honoured Him withal, as He is always to convert it to our benefit. But such cases require great and serious consideration and circumspection; for want whereof, the Church has often grievously suffered. And indeed the artifice of the Devil has brought it to pass, that Religion itself shall be, as it were, a persuader of sacrilege: for men, under the name thereof, assert that the best service to Religion will be to sweep away all, and leave the Church to its primitive poverty,-because riches forsooth have made her children wanton;-and that, if we give God our hearts and affections, other offerings are useless, or better bestowed elsewhere; that, in brief, to give unto God, is error; and that reformation of error, is to take away from the Church what the blindness of former ages gave. And hence, such suggestions having been too frequently listened to, and too sadly acted upon, in certain parts of the Christian world, the best things have been overthrown; not so much through the might of adversaries, as through lack of counsel in those whose duty it was to defend them.
LXXX. On TITLES for Orders not always necessary, else MISSIONS could not be; INDEFINITE Ordination a Primitive practice; on the Origin of LIMITED localities, or PARISHES.
ALL the points connected with the office and character of a minister may be included under these four: his Ordination; his Charge, or portion of duty in the Church; his Performance thereof; and the Maintenance he receives therefrom. The first of these has already been discussed. In respect to the second, it may be remarked, that as the great body of the people must necessarily be severed by separate precincts, so there seems a necessity for a division or distribution of Clergy amongst them. Now originally, Religion settling itself first in cities [Pagani, or inhabitants of villages, therefore, being remote from the means of religious instruction, would necessarily remain longer in ignorance than citizens; and hence the term Pagans came to be used as synonymous with that of Infidels, or Heathens.], a sort of Ecclesiastical College was consequently set up in each, consisting of Presbyters and Deacons, under the direction of the Apostles, or their delegates the Evangelists: e.g. the Colleges of Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Rome, Corinth, etc.-where the Faith of Christ was planted. The Charge of these was a general one: they went in common to all around, and no Presbyter had any separate Cure [Hence, to ordain KATA POLIN, through every city, and KAT' EKKLESIAN, through every Church, are synonymous expressions.]. About the year 112, Evaristus, a bishop in the see of Rome, began to appoint set precincts to every Church, and to each Presbyter a certain portion, whereof he should have the sole spiritual charge [PAROIKIA, parish]; and the convenience and benefit of this were so manifest, that in time all Christendom adopted it; and about A. D. 636, our own Churches became similarly divided. Some have been led into error, from not considering this original constitution of Churches; and, thinking that by Church, some definite local charge is always necessarily implied, they object to a minister being ordained to any indefinite or general duty; and hold, that he must have always some particular parish-church, with a particular flock or congregation. Now, this would at once prevent anything like Missionaries being sent to the Heathen; and besides, leaving other considerations out of the question, the example of primitive times forms no warrant for the objection; rather, as has already been shown, the indefinite Ordination of Presbyters and Deacons for promiscuous duty, is nearer to Apostolic practice than the other, which only began to prevail in the second century, about the time of Evaristus. Moreover, also, were their argument allowed, it would go to prevent all the singular benefits which arise from our noble Universities: wherein men are trained by special exercise of their understanding; and after due opportunity for contemplation, come forth furnished with tried powers and abilities, to the honourable discharge of their functions in the Church. In short, Presbyters and Deacons are not ordained unto places, but unto functions: and for the discharge of these functions, they may be translated, on fitting occasions, to different localities; always retaining the powers wherewith they were invested. It may be well to bear in mind, that the Ordination of Ministers is quite a distinct thing from their Title, or Charge: the one invests them absolutely with certain powers; the other only respects where those powers may be profitably used: and, therefore, the regulations of the latter can in no wise interfere with the former. Now, by a misconception of our Canon laws, some have fallen into error on this point. For, since they who have once received Ordination cannot return to a worldly calling, it behoved those in whose power Ordination was, to impose some restraint upon admission thereto, so as to prevent the unseemliness of poverty and destitution amongst their Order, through a too numerous admission. And hence arose the regulation, not to ordain without a Title; that is, a nomination to some Benefice, from whence the minister might receive his support. But these very laws do admit ordination, if the party so to be ordained have a competent support of his own; or if the bishop agree to provide for him, till some other proper maintenance be found. Hence it is plain, that our very Canons do not entirely forbid Ordinations at large; and in the present state of the Church, they are even necessary. Indeed it may be well observed, that for a long period in the primitive times, there could be no such things as Benefices,-that is, fixed life-revenues; but Ministers were supported by their canonical portions of such oblations as the piety of Christians did yield: and even when separate flocks and churches were assigned to Ministers, they yet had only, for some time, portions out of the common stock of gifts and oblations, as before. Again, when through the constitution of feudal laws, large territories of land were vested in one individual, it was impossible to build Churches thereon, and to parcel out Parishes, without consent of the owners; and it then became a matter of reasonable equity, to invest them and their heirs with the right of presenting to the Benefices such Ministers as the bishop might allow to be competent. Various circumstances, connected with increase of population and other causes, have created much inequality, and often rendered what was once a manageable Charge, or Title, utterly beyond the powers of one individual; and hence a necessity arose for stipendiary assistants, or Curates, the Benefice yet continuing one man's, though its duties require more. Thus much on Ordinations at large, and the expediency of Stipendiary Curates. As to the election of Ministers by popular voice, that will be treated of elsewhere [BOOK 7]; and the only duty necessary, previous to admission to Ordination, seems to be a knowledge of the party's worthiness, as well in learning, as also, and more particularly, in integrity and virtue.
LXXXI. On the competent LEARNING of Ministers; on their RESIDENCE; and on PLURALITY of Livings.
THE greatest obloquy, however, has arisen from that three-fold blot of notable ignorance; unconscionable absence from Cures; and insatiable hunting after preferment. And these things, therefore, it behooves us seriously to examine: and dispassionately to consider, as well how far they are reprovable by reason, and maxims of common right; as also, whether certain exceptions, permitted by our Laws, are so utterly inconsistent therewith, as some choose to allege. Against Ignorance, it has been argued, that St. Paul requires of Ministers [2 Tim 2:15; Tit 1:9] "ability to teach, to convince, to distribute the word of God rightly:" against Non-residence, that they are "Shepherds [1 Pet 5:2]" whose flocks are at no time secure; "Watchmen," whom the enemy does at all times besiege [Ezek 3:17]; and are to be patterns of holiness, and counsellors and guides to their flocks: against Plurality, that as it and residence are incompatible, it is making religion a thing of filthy lucre. And all this is true, in the general sense of the expressions. In a Minister of Christ there ought to be a competent knowledge of the doctrines and duties of his profession; and not only knowledge, but faithful practice also, and zeal in his heavenly calling, whereto he is bound by a solemn oath before God, and the neglect whereof incurs a fearful penalty. On these points, the Scriptures contain both affectionate and strong exhortations [Acts 20:28; 2 Tim 4:1]; and also equally emphatic denunciations [Jer 23:1,4; Ezek 34:2,8,10]. Moreover, labours in a general way will not excuse absence from and discharge of specific duty, to those our respective flocks whereof the Holy Ghost has made us overseers. And Plurality has not only the evil of absence, but the imputation also of worldly-mindedness. Hence it has been objected, that our laws of dispensation, in such cases, involve a contradiction to common right, and, consequently, a nullity of all such acts as proceed therefrom: and that, therefore, there is an invalidity in the Ordination of unlearned men unable to preach; and also, in the permission given for Non-residence, and for Plurality. But it is a great mistake to say that every privilege is repugnant to common right, simply because it dispenses with what common right generally prohibits. For it is universally admitted, that a general law never derogates from a special privilege; were it otherwise indeed, a general law being in force, there could be no special privilege at all. There are always particular circumstances, in the varied states of mankind, which cause that general rules and axioms cannot apply equitably to all cases; and hence, even justice requires that there should be peculiar grants, or privileges, which at first sight may perhaps seem repugnant to justice. For instance, the law of common right binds all men to keep their compacts, and to fulfill the faith they have once given; so that if a man grown to discretion disadvantage himself, even by an unwitting bargain, he must nevertheless abide by it: but this does not hold with minors, who are exempt from the operation of the general law: so that equity and justice cannot apply the same rule to both; but the one is ordered by common right, and the other by special privilege. Now, privileges are either transitory, as merely attaching to an individual, and ending with him; or permanent, as belonging to kinds or orders of men, and not ceasing with any particular man or men. There being, therefore, general laws, whereby the Church of God stands bound to provide, that her Ministers be learned; that they reside upon their charge; and that they do not scandalously multiply livings; it is to be considered whether the laws of the Church of England admit seemingly repugnant thereto. There being, then, upwards of 12,000 learned men required for all the cures in the realm,-and neither of the two Universities being able always to furnish an adequate supply, nor yet a fourth part of the Cures themselves to furnish a sufficient maintenance to learned men,-it seems a necessary consequence, that unless we would have the greater portion of the people without religious instruction at all, we must not look in all cases for men of extraordinary attainments, but those must be admitted who are moderately qualified in respect of learning. When, indeed, we speak of a learned man, we generally mean one who is eminently so; but when the law requires learning as a qualification for office, it must mean according to some standard of its own appointment; and this must be either a specification of particulars, or else a reference to the opinion of some competent judge. Now, St. Paul requires such learning in Presbyters as shall enable them to exhort in sound doctrine, and to disprove what is unsound; not defining the measure of ability, but leaving it to the discretion of Titus and others, his fellows. Suppose, then, we are unable always to procure such as the Apostles would have chosen; if we are content with a somewhat inferior degree of talent, and select those who may perform the usual offices of prayer and sacraments, and who may instruct by reading, although they have not ability to preach, we hold that the Apostle's law is not broken. We do the best that circumstances permit; and no one is bound to impossibilities. The question, indeed, is not whether learning be required, for that we admit and aim at; but whether a Church wherein there is not a sufficient store of learned men, in the strict sense of the word, to furnish every congregation, would do better to let thousands of souls grow savage, and leave them without either the ordinances or even the knowledge of the way of life, rather than (as is our practice) to admit such men as Presbyters who may be sufficient in all other points, save that they lack the preaching-ability which others may have. Of two evils we choose the least. In respect of Non-residence, certain causes thereof are allowed by law. Liberty, for a time, is given to such as reside in the Universities, for the improvement of their knowledge and acquirements. And this may be beneficial even to the church itself: for their Charge is not left destitute, though they may be absent; their flock is not neglected; and they may be meanwhile acquiring that, which will enable them eventually to be still more able and efficient instruments for saving souls. A similar argument may be applied in the case of those who are absent as Chaplains with bishops' families: in such schools of gravity and wisdom, they may be daily edified and prepared for greater usefulness. And with respect to Chaplains in noblemen's houses, we all know how much inferior things depend upon the good order of superior ones; and if, by such a means, personages of high rank and influence may be brought to an increased knowledge and love of true religion, it will hardly be deemed advisable that those should be withdrawn (their cures not being meanwhile unprovided for, or left destitute) who may be the happy means in helping forward the good work. Such, then, are some of the chief grounds whereon non-residence is allowed. To some, that their knowledge may be increased, and their subsequent labours rendered more profitable to the Church; to others, that the families of the great may not want opportunity for daily exercise of religion, whose very influence and example may be of infinite service to the cause of religion amongst inferior grades. And another reason prevailed, both towards permitting absence from cures, and also-(what necessarily causes it)-Plurality of Livings: viz. a desire to encourage and reward eminent qualities and services. Hence, to Governors of Colleges, and residents in Cathedrals, with a view to enable them to sustain the burden of expenditure which their situations expose them to,-and to others, in consideration of worth and merit, and by way of honour to learning and nobility,-- the law has given leave, as well to supply their inferior place by deputy, (they themselves meanwhile discharging some higher duty,) as moreover, also, that men of certain high degrees and rank may have license to hold more ecclesiastical livings than one. It is too true, however, that these privileges have been much abused; and that the avenue opened for just reasons to some, lets in also corruptly those that were never intended to be admitted. And hence, through favoritism, or too great kindness, those are obtruded upon the Church sometimes, whose slender qualifications precluded all hope of their support in other ways, and whose unfitness brings no small disgrace to their order. And hence, likewise, the other privileges of Non-residence and Plurality have been abused, to the great detriment of the Church. But though this be so, yet the abuse of a privilege does not render it invalid. A heathen philosopher [Aristotle, Polit. 7:9] has laid down a maxim, founded on the law of nature, "that no husbandman or handicraftsman should be a priest;" because it was inconsistent with God's honour, that the hands of His ministers should be defiled with mean occupations and yet, when the Apostle says [Acts 20:34; 1 Cor 4:12, etc.], "These hands have ministered to my necessities, and to them that are with me," did he in that case act repugnantly to the law of nature? Thus we see, that circumstances may allow exceptions even to natural rules: and hence, for the objectors to argue,-as in the cases of Ignorance, Non-residence, and Plurality,-that special and limited exceptions and privileges are repugnant to, and utterly inconsistent with, general rules, is an entirely false conclusion; and the assumed consequences of nullity of Orders, and invalidity of Dispensation, utterly erroneous. Though the argument might end here, the just answer being given, yet it may not be amiss to look somewhat particularly into the cause and source of these objections and complaints. Now, these appear to be, a pestilent mischievous conceit, that the perfection of Christianity consists not, as formerly, in humble exercise of piety and reverent attention to God's Word, but in searching out other men's faults, and vaunting our own professions. Righteous men of olden days had for their object, obedience; professors of our times, skill: the former aimed at reformation of life; the latter delight in reproof of vice: they, in their religion, exercised their knees and hands; we, our ears and tongues: so that every religious duty, save only that of preaching, has grown out of fashion. And moreover, in this their custom of considering sermons the sum total of religion, as they look upon a person lacking preaching-ability to be no Minister; so also, if he has the ability, but does not embrace some peculiar opinions, and hit the string of their fancies, then forsooth he is set down at once as an unprofitable one. Now, the very expression of the Apostle which they allege, that a Minister should have ability "rightly to divide the word [2 Tim 2:15]," does not mean any particular exposition of Scripture, (wherein, by the way, some through partial interpretation divide the people, instead of the Word;) but it means a preaching of sound doctrine, in opposition to new-fangled opinions contrary to old established ones, which necessarily caused division. [Some scholars have noted that the Greek word translated "rightly dividing" refers to cutting a board at a right angle, and that by extension it refers to the skilled workman who handles his tools and materials "with authority", so that a more idiomatic English translation would be "rightly handling the Word of Truth," with no suggestion of division.] To prevent the evils arising from this, the Church of England has sundry excellent methods: such as public readings and subscription of Articles; declarations of assent to her Liturgy and Offices, before admission or investiture; and rules of discipline for silencing those that disturb with new-fangled doctrines: and she deems it preferable to lack the labours of those that might disturb, rather than to endure the worse mischief of their inconformity to good laws. Moreover, what causes a Minister to differ from ordinary Christian men, is not (as has been foolishly imagined) "sound preaching of God's word;" but it is his being regularly and canonically ordained to his office, that constitutes him a lawful Minister, as touching the validity of any act appertaining thereto. Hence St. Paul's special charge to Timothy for caution in ordaining; because imposition of hands makes them Ministers, whether they have gifts and qualities or not. Besides, as has already been said, preaching is not the whole of a Minister's vocation: even as we know that St. Augustine admitted into his own Church a man of small erudition; considering that what he wanted in knowledge, might be compensated by his virtues,-which made his life a better orator than more learning could make those whose life was less holy. [Were all the priests after Moses (it may be asked) sufficient learnedly to interpret the Law? And if not, did their inferiority deprive them of their priestly character?] True, it is a good thing to wish for proper qualifications in all Ministers; and for a redress of corrupt practices and abuses. At the same time, there is a method of reason to be followed, in accomplishing this; and men who have license by law, and depend on the good faith thereof, are not rudely and suddenly to be dispossessed, at the mere will of those that would set up for reformers herein. Indeed, the same rule of equity, in this respect, is to be followed in ecclesiastical as in civil matters; for in these latter, there are unfitnesses, and pluralities, and absences from office. Nevertheless, it would be thought highly unjust, to revoke all long-standing grants and immunities and privileges summarily, and without respect to persons or circumstances. Rather, following the advice of a judicious historian, should we avoid the mischief which a sudden abrogation might cause; and seek, by a provident care and circumspection, to repress their growth in future. And for this good end, those who grant Ordination should, for the honour of Jesus Christ, and the good both of their own souls and of others, take good heed whom they admit: those who present unto Livings should, for the deliverance of their own souls in the day of judgment, be cautious, and consider what it is to betray for the sake of gain, the souls which Christ died to redeem: those who grant Dispensations should be heedful that only merit has its reward, and not plant a thorn where a vine should grow: those who qualify Chaplains, should not let their names be abused, contrary to the true intent of the laws: those who grant Degrees, should remember, that if, by their too great easiness, honours be given to the undeserving, the mischief done to religion will recoil upon themselves: and, lastly, those who enjoy any special privilege, should ever bear in mind the grounds whereon such have been granted, that absence has been allowed in the expectation of greater fruit to the Church through industry elsewhere,-and that Pluralities are permitted to testify our estimation of worth and virtue, according to the Apostolic rule," They which excel in labour ought to excel in honour [1 Tim 5:17]." And therefore, unless they answer the expectation of the Church herein, and use their constant and best endeavors to sow because they reap, and to sow as much more abundantly as they reap more abundantly than others, (to which condition they do virtually bind themselves by their acceptance of such things,) the honey which they thus eat, shall in the end be turned into very gall. Hence it has been shown, that maxims of common right are only against the practices in question indefinitely, and not universally and without exception; and that, therefore, special privileges are not repugnant thereto: that when privileges have grown into abuse, there must be redress, but not a summary violent abrogation of them, either wholly or in part; but that the best method would be, such a voluntary reformation, on all hands, as may prevent them in future.
+++++ +++++ +++++ +++++ +++++