« AnteriorContinuar »
Views of a clerical friend.
and to believe all the articles of the Christian faith, as the disciples of a meek and lowly Saviour-one day professing all this, and promising, moreover, with all the solemnities of a heaven-recorded vow, obediently to keep God's holy will and commandments, and to walk in the same all the days of their lives—and the next, returning to their stillloved ways of mere worldly enjoyment; sitting, at one time, in view of the corrupting and too often licentious exhibitions of the theatre ; and moving at another, amidst the splendid and ensnaring follies of the ball-room ; at one time devoted to the engrossing and dissipating games of the cardtable, and at another, occupied in some other of the numberless vanities in which are exhibited the very spirit and character of the unconverted mind! How often are these or similar things witnessed in those who have “vowed a vow unto God, and deferred to pay it;' who have openly taken a part in one of the highest solemnities of religion, and yet continue to live without any of the world-renouncing spirit of that religion ! Hereby hath the church too often bled, and through her veins hath religion herself poured out her very heart's blood upon the earth. By nothing hath the church been more humbled, or brought into deeper scorn, before good and holy men, than the practice of confirming before the altar the giddy children of the dance and the revel. It is time that these things should cease; and that confirmation should become, what it may so easily be made, a well guarded door to the holy communion, protecting the church, at once, in the truth of her doctrines, and in the purity of her members."
Objects of this testimony.
This testimony is not sectarian. The object aimed at is not to bring men to a particular religious party, but to bring them to the love and practice of the truth as it is in Jesus. From the character of these lectures, the author was led to speak of confirmation, and to show its apostolic origin. In speaking of the administration of this rite, he was also led to the incidental notice of the constitution of the ministry, under the three orders of bishops, priests, and deacons. While the writer would be distinctly understood as recording his solemn conviction that this form of the Christian ministry, as well as the rite of confirmation, is of divine appointment, he would by no means sit in judgment upon those who may dissent from this opinion. His primary object in these pages is to show the great essential features of religious experience, and to indicate the scriptural qualifications which those should possess who personally enter into covenant with God. This, therefore, is common ground, on which all Christians can and must meet. Whatever diversities of opinion there may be among the followers of the Redeemer, in subordinate matters, here they must all think and speak alike. The character of a child of God is just as unique and marked, as the character of the Great Supreme. And if Christians will only look into the mirror of divine truth, they will all agree in what constitutes the great outlines and essential features of that man's character who has been “ created anew in Christ Jesus.” It is delightful to find that there is common ground on which Christians can stand in one broad united phalanx, and together bear their testimony to the same point. Such united testimony strengthens the cause of the Redeemer, and knits the hearts of believers together in the bands of Christian fellowship and love.
Standing, therefore, on this common ground, the author
Doctrines of the Episcopal church.
would deprecate the idea that there is any thing sectarian in this testimony. Were he conscious that there was a single line that breathed unkindness to any that hold the truth as it is in Jesus, he would instantly erase it. He fully believes that all who have the mind that was in Christ, cherish a kind and catholic spirit. He fully believes that the church in whose bosom he was nurtured, and at whose altar he has been permitted for several years to minister, possesses in an eminent degree this lovely spirit of the gospel. She opens wide her arms to receive all whom Christ receives. There may be within her pale those who are inflamed with the fire of sectarian zeal; but they have taken this fire not from her consecrated altar, but from the altar of their own corrupt hearts. There is not a church on earth farther removed from illiberal sectarianism and narrow minded bigotry.
To be convinced of this, " walk about this Zion, and go round about her; tell the towers thereof, mark well her bulwarks, consider her palaces, that ye may tell it to the generation following."
This church regards episcopacy and the rite of confirmation as of apostolic appointment. But she does not on this account shut the door against those who do not view these as essential to the existence of a Christian church.
This church also holds the doctrine that infants are fit subjects to be received into the Christian covenant, and expects that parents will offer up their children in faith to God through the ordinance of baptism. But the church by no means excludes from her pale, or subjects to discipline, those Christian parents who may have conscientious scruples as to the duty and propriety of this act.
And so in relation to the mode of baptism ; though custom has established the sprinkling or pouring on of water as the usual form, she leaves it to the choice of the recipient whether it shall be either of these modes or immersion.
The Christian world has been long divided in relation to the doctrine of divine decrees, and of predestination and election. Men of equal piety and worth have taken different sides on these points. The views which the church has taught, as expressed in her articles, are unquestionably what in the present day are termed moderate Calvinism. Still, she has expressed her views with such moderation
and strict conformity to Scripture, that those who have
taken different sides on those questions, have found no dif} ficulty in subscribing to the same articles. In all this there is certainly evinced a liberal and truly catholic spirit.
But as to the great essential doctrines of the cross- -the main pillars of evangelical truth—she holds them with a firm and unyielding grasp. And in this, the author trusts, he has sought to tread in her footsteps. He would recoil with horror from the thought of lowering or letting down one of the essential truths of the gospel, in order to convey the impression that he possesses great liberality of feeling. Such an act, in his view, would be treason against the Author of the gospel. Neither can he conceive how any extended religious instruction could be delivered, by any one who holds the truth as it is in Jesus, without the constant recognition of the following fundamental truths: That Jesus Christ, the author of our salvation, is divine, and one of the adorable persons in the undivided Deity: That the great purpose for which he took upon him our nature, was to hecome the mediator between God and man, and to make atonement for the sins of the world: That mankind are by nature estranged from God, and utterly corrupt, and completely ruined and undone : That all who are saved must be saved by free grace and sovereign mercy : That the sinner has nothing to depend upon but the righteousness of Christ, and that he is justified by faith alone : That the soul of man is in a state of moral ruin, the understanding darkened, the will perverted, and the affections alienated from God, and that in it, there must be a complete new moral creation, before it can become an object of divine complacency: That the condition of man, since the fall, is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God; and therefore, that there is absolute need of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit : That all the good that is wrought in us, is attributable to its divine influence: That holiness of life, and obedience to the precepts of the gospel, are evidences indispensably requisite to show that the heart has been renewed and made right in the sight of God.
These form the great characteristic features in the system of doctrine held by the Episcopal church. And if these are considered as sectarian views, then the author of
Principles of Catholicism.
these pages glories in sectarianism, and in being the minister of a sectarian church. For, in his view, these doctrines constitute the very elements of the gospel, the great essential frame work of Christianity; and should there ever come a time when these doctrines are expunged from the creed of the church to which he belongs, it is his devout prayer, that that church may then cease to have a name upon the earth, for she will then have “ denied the Lord that bought her," and the doom she will have richly merited, will be “ swift destruction."
But most unquestionably these views will not be considered sectarian, by any save those whose minds have be
corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” These doctrines constitute the broad area on which all evangelical Christians can meet; an area like that which Moses and the seventy elders saw under the feet of the God of Israel, “a paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.” Here, on this glorious foundation, Christians can stand together, and speak one language; and the oftener they meet on this holy ground, the sooner will all envying and strife and divisions cease. Recognizing in each other the image of their common master, they will be constrained to love one another for Christ's sake. They will learn to examine those points of difference, by which they are separated, with candour, meekness, and Christian forbearance. And when brought to this temper of mind, if they cannot perfectly agree in all things, they will be able while they hold their separate opinions, mutually to lay aside " all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, with all malice."