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COMPOSED BETWEEN TWELVE AND ONE O'CLOCK ON THE LAST NIGHT OF
THE OLD YEAR, WHILST THE BELLS WERE RINGING.
Another year! and can it be
A source of joy, to know
As other twelve may go?
Give forth a solemn sound;
I may a grave have found.
Upon my spirit's dream-
Or life on earth esteem.
By sin is sorely prest;
Death cannot give me rest.
The Spirit’s change to prove-
To shew my faith by love.
Shall future cycles bring,-
The New Year's bells shall ring.
NOTICE TO CORRESPONDENTS, &c.
In our next :-Perpetual Obligation of Moral Law-Address to the Clergy.
sheet of Letter-press in lieu. He has some thoughts of giving a Sermon in each number for family purposes on Sunday evenings. Any hints on the expediency of this, or any other points connected with the utility of the work, he shall be glad to receive.
THE CHRISTIAN GUARDIAN,
CHURCH OF ENGLAND MAGAZINE. .
DELIVERED AT A MEETING OF CLERGYMEN FOR HUMILIATION
HONOURED BRETHREN AND FATHERS IN CHRIST,The occasion on which we are met together is of too solemn a nature to admit of my occupying your time with any remarks foreign to the deeply interesting subject now before us. He who is addressing you, trusts that
you will kindly believe that he would, if following his own inclination, much rather be occupying the place of a learner, than of a teacher of those who are so much better able to give advice and exhortation suitable to the present occasion. But we are here as the ministers of Christ. To Him may we give audience! He can, if He pleases, speak to you “a word in season,” by the weakest and most simple instrument. Pray, dear brethren, that He may so condescend to bless our meeting, that what we have heard to-day, and what we shall still hear, and the solemn services in which we are engaged, may all tend to His glory, and the edification of His Church!
Studying all becoming brevity, I would desire simply to set before you, in the Lord's name
I. The Dangers by which we are surrounded.
I. Let us, for a short time, direct our attention to the dangers of our present situation, as a Church of Christ, in this country. And here I allude to the various and opposite attempts making, in different quarters, to overthrow the position of the Church of England, as a National Church; or to undermine its usefulness, by corrupting its principles, and destroying its character as a true Church of Christ. And here I have nothing novel to bring before you. We are all, I hope, aware of the critical position in which we are placed; surrounded by many and powerful enemies; and uncertain on which side to look for the next attack, or where chiefly to collect our strength to meet the coming invasion.
When I speak of enemies, I wish to be understood as meaning, not 1845—MAR.
men, but principles: principles which are diametrically opposed to our own, and which, if once admitted, would necessarily subvert our Church, as at present constituted. Allow me, then, to particularize four of these leading principles, which are now setting the battle in array against us, army against army.
1. There is the Voluntary, or Separatist Principle, which has been, and is, waging an implacable warfare, breathing extermination against our very existence as a National Establishment. We all know how powerful a host is thus marshalled against us. The heat of the battle has, indeed, somewhat abated of late, and fresh foes claim our more immediate attention. Indeed, there are some among our opponents, whom we would scarcely wish to designate as our foes.
But let us not suppose that the principle of separation, and hatred to Establishments, has lost
any of its strength. No; it only seems to slumber, and is, in fact, gathering new force in various quarters. Even in our own body, a numerous and increasing party are prepared to advocate a separation between Church and State; others are daily separating from us, and forming new and strange combinations for Christian fellowship; while, in the North, we see a Sister Church, which lately was numbered among our warmest allies in the cause of Establishments, placed in a position at least extremely doubtful, with respect to this question, and holding very loosely by her existence as a National Church.
2. There is the Liberalist principle; the principle maintained by numbers in the present day whose views are political, rather than religious, and yet have a directly hostile bearing upon the position of our Church, as a faithful witness and keeper of the Truth. The principle which would confound truth with error, call darkness light, and place Socinianism and Popery on a level with true Christianity, cannot but be regarded as a most dangerous foe to the Protestantism of our land. We have, indeed, been mercifully delivered from the more immediate object of our fears in this quarter, and Political Expediency is no longer so openly avowed as a principle of government, as we have known it to be. But we must not therefore dream that the danger is over. Oh, no! We have too much reason to dread, lest, under a more respectable name, and a specious exterior, containing much that is plausible in theory, and skilful in practice; there should lie imbedded and concealed a large mass of genuine Liberalism, and unsanctified regard to human expediency, which only waits an opportunity to disclose itself in perfect agreement with those who are, and ever have been, the most inveterate enemies of our Church, and of true Religion.
3. There is the Infidel, or Revolutionary principle; a principle opposed to all order, authority, and decorum: the sworn enemy of all that is sacred, venerable, and justly held in esteem amongst us. The principle of the scorner, the sceptic, and the atheist, on the one hand; and of the chartist, the socialist, and the low radical, on the other. We all know what strides this alarming outbreak is making in our day; how it is, in some quarters, almost rivalling the march of former times, the fierce onslaught of the French Revolution, and the fury which ushered in the Reign of Terror. God only knows to what extent this spirit will be allowed to operate, how far it will spread itself, or when He who “sitteth upon the flood” will say to the advancing wave, Thus far shalt thou go, and no further.” But we may be sure we have not yet
seen the full-spread maturity of that principle of anarchy in government, and unbelief in religion, the very germination of which has justly excited so much alarm among all classes of the community.
4. And lastly, there is the Superstitious or Popish principle, which for ages ruled the Christian Church with its spiritual despotism and iron sceptre; but which, broken and beaten down by public odium, was supposed to have sunk under the march of intellectual improvement, never to rear its dark head again in this land of light and liberty. But reason, vain and self-confident in its assumptions, was here to be put to shame by humiliating experience. We were to be taught that not by the might of argument, or the power of human opinion, was the monster of Babylon to fall to the ground; but only by the Word and Spirit of the living God. Thus, in the middle of the nineteenth century, we see Popery again rampant in the midst of us; actively sending out its emissaries; putting forth its energies; and drawing away not a few unstable souls to the shameful yoke of Antichrist and his soul-destroying delusions. But this, alas! is not the worst. A more refined, and therefore so much the more dangerous, superstition, has sprung up in the bosom of our own Church; a child, not of Rome, but of Catholic Antiquity, (whether truly or falsely so-called, it matters not ;) a superstition which is daily gaining ground upon us with fearful rapidity; and threatens soon to overrun the whole of the Church, and turn some of its greenest pastures into a waste-howling wilderness; mingling itself, as it does, with every portion of Divine truth, corrupting the minds of the ministers of Christ, and feeding the flock with a poisonous compound of error and fable, instead of the life-giving doctrines of the Gospel of Jesus. Nor let us think because these views are as yet confined to a minority of the Clergy, and have not received the open sanction of our Ecclesiastical Rulers, therefore the danger is not so considerable as we have represented it. We ought not to have to learn, dear brethren, that in this very Church of England, it did not take many years, or months, no, nor yet many weeks, to change the whole face of the professing Church, from that of a free and full Gospel ministry, to that of a crouching and time-serving hierarchy, yea, rather to a rampant and roaring Popish Priesthood!* Nor ought we to forget that, on another occasion, when a subtle and political prelate sowed in this Church the seeds of Semi-Pelagian heresy, how soon they took root, how fast they grew up to maturity under the fostering sunshine of Royal favour, so that, in the space of a few years, that very doctrine which had been formally condemned by our representatives abroad, and unanimously repudiated by our universities at home, as wholly foreign to our Church and opposed to the Gospel of Christ, was found overshadowing with its boughs the whole of our land, and had so closely interwoven itself with the very framework of our Ecclesiastical constitution, that to this day it has never been eradicated, nor ceased to claim the high places of our Church as its own lawful domain. Oh, what is man! What are man's schemes, however excellent, when left to themselves, without the power and unction of the Spirit of God!
II. But I would hasten on to the more wholesome and practical part of this Address, namely, our Duty as ministers of the Church of England, at the present crisis.
* The Reign of Mary,
1. The first point to which I would call your attention, is that to which we have all been invited this day, by an unknown brotherHumiliation.
We all, I am persuaded, feel indebted to him for thus reminding us of a duty which has been too much neglected amongst us. Our Church has, year after year, called to sackcloth and ashes; but “ behold, joy and gladness, eating flesh, and drinking wine.” We, (I speak of the people generally, not of ourselves individually,) have loved feasting more than fasting, and self-indulgence more than self-denial. This, I fear, has been a snare to many, and a stumbling-block to not a few, who, by a reaction as common and natural in morals, as in physics, have gone
back from our modern remissness in discipline, to the superstitious austerities of the dark ages of Popery. But now, I trust, we begin to see our error, and are unanimous in a disposition to humble our souls before God, on account of our national, family, and individual sins. And surely there is much cause for the deepest humiliation. When we look around us, and consider the state of the nation at large, the spread of those principles already alluded to, and the growth of immorality and profaneness among the people; the Sabbath-breaking, the swearing, the lewdness, the dishonesty, the intemperance, which abound on every side; surely, surely, we are called to mourn over the sins of our nation, lest the heavy wrath of God descend upon us, and cut us off in his displeasure from the face of the earth. Nor should our humiliation be confined to the confession of these public enormities. There are other national sins of which we may have been guilty, which, though not so glaring in their malignity, may not less truly have been the occasion of the Divine displeasure. Call to your remembrance, dear brethren, the intolerance of the Church at one period of our history, and her laxity at another; both, it may be, equally hostile to truth and godliness. Consider the dangerous concessions which have been made by our rulers, to Popery on the one side, and to Liberalism on the other. Look at the number of churches in which the Gospel is never heard from the pulpit; or the many more in which which the lives of the ministers openly belie the great truths of Christianity. Look also at the small effect produced among those who have long heard the Gospel. Consider these things, and such as these, and say whether we should not mourn and weep together over the sinfulness of a corrupt and careless age? Again, let us look nearer home, and inquire whether there may not have been much, too much in our own families, and in our own conduct, to add to the load of national guilt, and to call down upon our Church a heavier vengeance ? Has there not been much coldness and worldliness of spirit, much self-indulgence and sloth, much strife and contention, much of lukewarmness where we ought to have been all zeal and activity, and much of bigotry and prejudice where we ought to have exercised candour, moderation, and charity? I speak not of individuals, but in a general way: may the Holy Spirit apply these observations aright! Bear with me, dear and honoured brethren and fathers, while I ask you to inquire, each one for yourselves, wherefore God is contending with us? The Lord has a controversy with his Church. Have we amongst us the accursed thing--the wedge of gold, or the Babylonish garment, which has provoked him to anger? Let us search diligently, and put away from us the offending member, though the excision of it be painful as the cutting off a right hand, or the plucking out a right eye!