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in which we live, which make it peculiarly important, that the duty of obedience to the laws and regulations of our Church should be placed upon its right basis, and that attention should be called to it.
It is in the nature of all laws which are of man's framing, and have respect to human actions, first to be remissly observed, and then to fall into disuse.
By degrees, the inconvenience consequent upon this state of things comes to be felt: and men proceed to apply such remedies as their several tempers suggest. Those of a more peaceable turn quietly supply the deficiency by private plans of their own devising. Those of a more stirring spirit clamour for reform.
At the present moment there are, perhaps, considerable numbers in both the classes of persons alluded to.
Of the former class, the 'cause why the great majority have paid little or no regard to the Church's authority, is simply, that their attention has never been called to the subject. They have been instructed in their duty to God; and they have been taught their duty to their neighbour individually; but their duty, as members of the Church,
they have never had distinctly brought before them.
Now it is important that these good menand good men many of them truly are—should be intreated to consider, whether their piety would not be both more healthful in itself, and more edifying to their brethren, and more fruitful to their children, and their children's children, if they were to endeavour to frame themselves in outward matters more fully according to those rules and regulations, which their Church, in the exercise of the authority which God has given her, hath prescribed.
And, with regard to the latter class: it is not less important that it should be suggested to them, whether the inconveniences of which they complain would not be best remedied, by acting out to the full, those rules, which we already have. There may be instances, in which the change of times and circumstances has made new laws necessary. But, in most cases it will be found, that the laws already in being are the result of long experience and collected wisdom, and that the safest and the most advantageous method of proceeding would be to put them in force. At all events, it is but reason, that new laws should not be enacted, till it can be clearly shewn that they are more likely to answer the end in view, and to continue to do so through succeeding generations, than those which already exist.
There is another feature in the times in which we live, to which it may
proper to advert. For a long season, the tide of public opinion has set in to depreciate Antiquity, and the great principles on which the Reformation in this country was carried forward have been neglected and forgotten. But, of late years, a reflux has taken place, and the current has begun to flow in the contrary direction. As yet, it may seem premature to talk of opposing barriers to so salutary a reaction. But let it not be taken in evil part. It is in man's nature to oscillate between extreme points. If the claims of antiquity have been underrated in one generation, it would only be in accordance with what has happened again and again in the Church's history', that they should be overrated in another. And there is perhaps
* See Chrysostom. de Sacerdotio, lib. iv. c. 4.
the more danger from the circumstance, that to have a zeal for what is ancient is, in so many cases, closely connected with learning, and imagination, and taste, and separation from vulgar prejudices and vulgar opinions. It may, indeed, be thought by some, that we cannot well overrate the claims of antiquity; but it is too obvious to require proof, that it is as possible, how unconsciously soever, to indulge a spirit of schism by reviving, on private authority, ancient practices, which our Church has seen it right deliberately to discard, as by introducing novel customs and plans of our own devising d.
The Fourth Sermon, together with its Appendix, relates to the authority of the Church in controversies of Faith. We are apt perhaps to use the word Church vaguely. It was the author's aim, while much of what is said will necessarily apply to the deference which ány particular branch of the Church Catholic may claim at the hands of her children, as well as to the deference which the Church Catholic herself may claim at the hands of every Christian, to draw attention to the deference due from us to the authority of our own Church, the Church of England.
u See Hooker, Eccles. Pol. book v. sect. 8.
The subject is a difficult one to handle. It cannot choose but be difficult, when there are so many various rights, if one may so speak, to be respected: the supremacy of Scripture, as the alone rule of faith, to be religiously guarded ; the just claims of antiquity, as the interpreter of Scripture in doubtful points, to be allowed; the more immediate authority of our own Church over her own children to be maintained ; and, at the same time, the duty of each individual Christian to employ to the utmost of his ability, in ascertaining for himself the sense of God's word, that reason and that judgment which God has committed to him, and for the use of which, as of talents for which he must give account, he will be held responsible. The author dare not be confident, that the impression left upon the minds of some of his readers will not be, that he has stranded his vessel upon one or other of the shoals by which his course was beset. There may be those, who will think that he has ascribed too much to the right of private