Page images


&c. &c.

The chief danger of the Church arises from the disunion of its Clergy. The effect of the controversies of the day upon the public mind sufficiently proves the truth of this assertion. I appeal to the unprejudiced and impartial: to those who are anxious to secure, by their example and influence at home, the safety of those laws, which have been so successfully defended against all foreign speculations. I address those only who have learned from the history of their country, that the Church of England is the best friend to the happiness of this kingdom. To such men I would submit the danger, and propose what seems its adequate remedy. Particularly do I make this appeal to the nobility and gentry of the kingdom, who are so much interested in the discussion of the question. Still more anxiously do I trust, that this appeal may not be made in vain to a divided and disputing clergy. The enemies of the Church are surrounding her walls and counting her towers. They are ready to mount upon her battlements, and her defenders are contending within the citadel, insulted, though, as yet, not conquered from without. He only is the object of louder scorn to all parties who sounds the alarm for the common safety.

The principal cause of the divisions among the clergy, is their substitution of imaginary for known duties. To understand the nature of the latter, it will be necessary briefly to enquire, what are the objects for which the Church, as a spiritual society governed by its own laws, is united with the State ? They are partly political, and partly religious. The political object of this union, solely derivable from the spiritual character of the Church, is public utility. The church promotes that morality which is the best security of public order; it insists on those duties of imperfect obligation contributing to the happiness and peace of society, which it is not the province of the magistrate to enforce. Innumerable offences escape the censure of the magistrate, whose deficient power extends only to the prevention and punishment of open crime : religion alone supplies this defect, and promotes the public utility, by commanding submission to the honest institutions of man, in obedience to the will of God. By thus interposing the sanction of rewards for the preservation of public order, it secures an excellence of government, to which no civil power can of itself aspire.

Such is the political object of an ecclesiastical establishment. Its religious object may be defined with equal clearness. It is designed to perpetuate purity of faith and doctrine. Purity of doctrine cannot be obtained in an age of religious controversy, without accurate, well studied definitions of all those opinions the Church professes to support: hence the necessity of articles of faith. Uniformity is equally essential to the universal reception and peace of a national establishment : hence originates the necessity of liturgies, and a common ritual : and, as every society must be governed by certain regulations and known laws, hence the necessity of canons and a rubric. The government of a Church, however, by bishops, priests, and deacons, is of divine origin, and totally independent of all these considerations. Without this form of government there is no Apostolical Church : and whatever be the decision of the State, with respect to the degree of obedience due from a clergyman to his bishop, his spiritual obligation is binding, even in cases where the law is silent.

He is amenable to the dominion of his ecclesiastical superiors, in the manner, and to the extent demanded by the Apostles of the primitive Christians.

The union of the two distinct societies of Church and State, thus renders essential service to each other. The State secures to the Church that provision which has ever been set apart for the adequate maintenance of her ministers : it assigns her Bishops a place in the Legislature, and thus confers honor on the whole body of her clergy. The Church promises obedience to the civil magistrate, and prevents an imperium in imperio, by acknow. ledging the supremacy of the State. It constitutes the King, in fact, the head of the Church; upon this principle, that the law must rule the King, that is, the King has dominion over ecclesiastical affairs, according to the laws of the Church. In one word, as Bishop Warburton admirably sums his enquiry into the nature of the alliance between the Church and State, is the aim of the State is utility : the aim of the Church, truth." Whence it follows, that the Church should serve the State, and the State should pro

tect the Church : so that both are strengthened by their mutual dependence on each other.

From this cursory view of the objects of that alliance between the Church and State, which I, of course, consider as having received the approbation of those to whom I write ; it is evident, that duties of a threefold nature present themselves to the clergy, and the clashing of these triple duties is the secret source of their disunion. They are required to fulfil their duty as citizens of the State, as members of the Church of England, and as members of the Church of Christ. These duties are all compatible with each other. In every circumstance of life in which a clergyman is placed, he is bound to reconcile the several motives which engage him to their observance. He is called upon to unite loyalty to the magistrate with obedience to Church discipline and the fear of God. If these constitute one spring of action, the consequence will be the fulfilment of all our known duties. If they are separated, imaginary duties will be substituted, and unavoidable injury will accrue to the sacred cause of loyalty, peace, and truth.

On the duties of the clergy, as citizens of the State, it is unnecessary to enlarge. So accurately have the principles of the Revolution defined the privileges of the people and the prerogatives of the Crown ; so admirably has that renowned settlement provided for the security of the peace and liberty of the kingdom, that it is scarcely possible for circumstances to occur, which shall justify the Episcopal Church in withholding its concurrence to the measures of the Legislature. Questions, it is true, will always arise to divide the public mind, generating parties and factions, and discussions and controversies. With such parties, a clergyman has little or no common interest; he degrades his venerable office, he injures the holy cause of religion, by engaging either in electioneering squabbles or any paltry political dispute. Guided by fixed principles, he does not change with the changing novelties of the day. A clergyman is undoubtedly interested in public transactions, but he should be rather a spectator than an actor. Neither insolent nor servile ; neither an alarmist nor an innovator; his duty may be comprised in submission, silence, and defence. Submission to every measure of the State ; silence where he cannot approve ; and active vigorous defence of the general system, in return for the support he derives from the public institutions of the country. It cannot even be an imaginary duty with a clergyman to be a turbulent opponent or a restless agitator. On all occasions he must himself learn, and teach others also, to “ study to be quiet ;"_" to submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, and particularly to the King as supreme."

The known duties of a clergyman, as a member of the Church,

are easily ascertained by referring to his oaths of canonical obedience, and to the charge from his bishop at ordination. It would be superfluous to insist, that it is the duty of the deacon, or priest, to visit the sick, catechise the children, prepare the younger part of their congregations for confirmation, perform with punctuality their prescribed parochial offices, and above all, by their diligent cultivation of personal religion, to endeavour to become examples to their flocks. It cannot be necessary to show that he should love his Church, study the Scriptures, obey the authority to which he has sworn submission, set aside, as much as possible, all worldly cares and studies, and take care that his communion receive no hurt or hinderance, through his negligence, vice, or folly. These obligations are well understood, and acknowledged by all parties; and it is useless either to discuss their meaning or enforce their propriety.

Other duties, however, of a clergyman are described in more indefinite terms : and such latitude of interpretation has been allowed to the language in which they are expressed, that the most opposite conduct has plausibly been defended from the same injunctions. Among other questions which the bishop asks at the ordination of a clergyman are the following: “Will you be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines, contrary to God's word? Will you maintain, and set forwards quietness, peace and love, as much as lieth in you, among all Christian people; and especially among them that are, or shall be, committed to your charge ?” The candidate for the priesthood answers, “I will;" and thus takes upon himself a known and solemn duty. In the performance of the obligations thus incurred, the clergyman is evidently bound to consider the temper of the times, the circumstances of society, the history of contending opinions, the genius of Christianity, the safety of his church, the honor of God, and the benefit of his people. We must suppose that all who are conscientious, all who wish to approve themselves to God, “as men who must give an account,” have weighed these things and acted accordingly. Of the whole body of the clergy, then, who have equally sworn to banish all erroneous doctrines, who are most worthy of our approbation ? those who unite with every sect and party, for purposes nominally religious; or those who avoid all societies, whatever their pretensions, which are founded on the principle of overlooking peculiarities of opinion, and distinctions of names and offices.

Let us now inquire what are the known duties of a clergyman, as a member of the Church of Christ. All his obligations centre here. As a Christian, then, acting from a conscientious obedience to the commands of the great Head of the universal Church, he is bound to fulfil all the duties required by the State and by the Apostolic Society, to the communion of which he is so solemnly united. He is called upon to disperse the Scriptures ; to extend the knowledge of the Gospel ; to study universal love and charity with all men ; to promote the conversion of all « Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Heretics ;" to support all schemes of general good to the utmost of his power, whether of a moral, religious, or charitable description. He is bound to aim at the advancement of the honor of God in every thing, from a grateful remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ. These duties are unavoidably expressed in general terms; but they are equally binding with those laid down in more precise and definite language.

From this enumeration of the duties of a clergyman, as a subject, churchman, and Christian, we are naturally led to a more accurate distinction between our known and imaginary duties. At first sight it appears absurd to call any duty. imaginary ; my meaning will be best understood by the following brief summary of those fixed principles or axioms, which every churchman will acknowledge as indisputable propositions.

The Church of England is a true, Apostolic Church, and has authority over its members.

Our duties as members of such an establishment, are not, and cannot be consistent with our duties, as members of the Catholic Church.

It is our duty to disperse the Bible, promote missions, &c. &c. &c.

In endeavouring to accomplish these objects, we are not authorised to violate any law of God, or of our Church.

If in our efforts to disperse the Bible, promote missions, &c., we offend against the laws and discipline of our Church, we are required by every moral and religious consideration, to desist from those efforts, till we can attain our object in that manner which is consistent with our sworn duties.

Whoever permits his duties to clash, prefers an imaginary to a known obligation. This proposition will be better understood, by referring to instances drawn from the circumstances of the

present times.

Let us imagine the following case. A learned, exemplary, and pious prelate is anxious to fulfil every duty demanded of his high station. As a citizen, he is desirous to preserve the peace of his country; as a churchman, to drive away all erroneous doctrines ; as a Christian, to extend to the whole world the blessings of his religion. Circumstances of a peculiar nature appear to afford him an opportunity of promoting the latter object of his wishes. A

« PreviousContinue »