« PreviousContinue »
THE ADVANTAGES RESULTING FROM A FAITHFUL
FROM THE BISHOP OF WINCHESTER'S CHARGE.
There is ground, I think, for fear, if a system of reserve in communicating religious knowledge be introduced, and we are taught to treat salvation by grace as a great secret,' to be kept out of the sight of the ungodly for fear of an indelicate exposure of religion,' and that · to require from both grown persons and children an explicit declaration of a belief in the atonement, and the full assurance of its power, appears equally untenable.' Is this conclusion drawn from the analogy of our blessed Lord's own teaching? We, I trust, have not so learned Christ. We remember how, in the very earliest days of his ministry, he did not hesitate to bring forward some of the highest doctrines. At the first passover, he assumed a right over his Father's house by cleansing the temple--a declaration of the Divine prerogative of the strongest kind. His discourse with Nicodemus is based upon the doctrine of regeneration - the deepest theological truth. His conversation with the woman of Samaria revealed that God is a spirit --the most abstract metaphysical truth. In declaring to the people of Nazareth that to none of the widows in Israel was Elias sent, “ save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow," he taught the doctrine of election, the most mysterious of the Divine purposes. We remember how some months before his crucifixion, he intimates the sacrifice itself and its object: “ Destroy this temple ;” • The Son of man must be lifted up; " " The bread that I give is my
last care, immediately before the ascension, to enter with the eleven into the full explanation of his expiatory sacrifice, referring to his former discourses, and interpreting their meaning, that the apostles, and after them in turn their successors, might be competent expounders of this important doctrine.
Neither have we so learned the practice of the apostles. It was not by throwing a veil over the cross of Christ that St. Paul showed his reverence for that high and holy mystery. “ I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” “ I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures,” He takes the Galatians to witness that Jesus Christ had been evidently set forth before their eyes, crucified among them. So far is he from shinking from the theme, as too sacred and awful for speech, that he glories in giving it explicit prominence even in the midst of those who could not receive the truth. “ We preach Cbrist crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.”
Neither have we so learned the requirements of our church, which expects that out of the mouths of the very babes and sucklings God will perfect praise. The earliest christian lesson which she bids us teach our children, is that God the Son hath redeemed us.'
Neither have we so learned in the school of experience. The whole history of the church, in every age, tends to prove the utter inefficiency of a ministry which is not faithful in honouring the Saviour by a full exhibition of his grace and love, in pointing to the light which beams from the cross, and in proclaiming openly, “ Behold the Lamb of God." The experiment has been often tried. It has been tried upon individuals; it has been tried upon parishes, it has been tried upon whole countries; and many a conscientious pen has been constrained to write the record of its utter failure, Could it be otherwise, when our Master has said, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me ?” Could it be otherwise, “ lest the cross of Christ be made of none effect ?"
“ Contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.” It is the talisman of our ministry. God does not bless an adulterated Gospel. It is when his Word has free course, that he is glorified in the healing of the nations.
- Nothing can be more explicit than the witness borne by our church to the primary importance of this truth, From first to last, in all her offices, she contends for the liberty of calling no man master but Christ. She loses no opportunity of magnifying Holy Writ. In the coronation of our princes, when the Church presents the sovereign with the book of life, it is characterized as the most valuable thing which this world affords. And then follows that noble commendation- Here is wisdom. This is the royal law. These are the lively oracles of God. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this book ; that keep and do the things contained in it; for these are the words of eternal life, able to make men wise and happy in this world, nay, wise unto salvation, and so happy for evermore, through faith that is in Christ Jesus.' In the consecration of her bishops, on the delivery of the Bible, she addresses them almost in the very words of St. Paul to Timothy : 'Give heed unto reading, exhortation, and doctrine. Think upon the things contained in this book. And, when she ordains her ministers to the holy functions of their office, she sends them out on their sacred mission with a special and significant injunction as to the matter of their doctrine; • Take thou authority to preach the word of God. For other preaching they have no license. If they lay other foundation than that is laid, it is in contravention of their credentials. The Church's commission is express, and exclusive_Take thou authority to preach the word of God.'
And when this word goes forth in all its freedom and integrity, building up the individual members of the flock in the principles of our most holy faith, and shielding them with the doctrine and discipline of the church, can any one mistake the blessing which attends it ? Can there be any question of the prosperity ? any doubt whether the gracious dew has descended from heaven, and moistened the whole fleece ? Mark the results. Dissent stayed; the churches filled ; apathy roused; formality shaken ; inquiry awakened ; a spirit of intelligence engendered in the congregation; the Lord's day observed more decently; the liturgy more highly appreciated; respect for the ordinances increasingly cultivated; the sacraments duly estimated ; baptism honoured in the presence of the Church, and the pleading for the mercies of the covenant, promised by our Lord Jesus Christ in his Gospel ; more frequent biddings to the holy communion ; fewer refusals, a less chilling negligence, and a return to a better mind on the part of them that are bidden; domestic prayer more prevalent; an approach to something of godly discipline in the Christian family and the Christian community; catechetical teaching rendered interesting, and appreciated by parents and children ; the rite of confirmation rescued from the disgrace of unmeaning profession or formal ignorance, and elevated into a season of profitable instruction; churches and schools planted, and flourishing, as the need of an increasing population may demand; resort to the pastor, as a spiritual and temporal adviser, the friend and physician of soul and body, consistent in his walk, wise in his counsels, cheerful and accessible in manner; the recognition of a purer standard of holiness ; of the details of Christian duty; of the obligations of the divine law; of the doctrine of love to God and man in all its enlarged bearings ; an increase of zeal for the dissemination of scriptural knowledge ; the inculcation of the word of God; the planting of missions ; the abolition of many old unchristian usages; the Gospel, however imperfectly obeyed, recognized as authoritative ; Christian sympathy and Christian forbearance called into action ; a spirit of charity more deeply cherished; the highway of our God marked out, a way of holiness opened, of holy worship and of holy conversation. These, we think, are among the visible and obvious effects of the ministrations of our church which exhibit in their doctrine, simply and prominently, free justification through the grace that is by Christ Jesus. These, we think, are the answers given to the faithful proclamation of the message of reconciliation. These, we think, are the fruits of the good tree-the products of the branch which draws life from Christ, the true Vine. These are the seals of a ministry, which divine grace has made effectual for turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just ; for bringing peace to burdened consciences; for uniting men by a living faith to Christ their true head; for nourishing them in the church of the redeemed to the full measure of unity, strength, and holiness. Therefore I repeat" Contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.”