« PreviousContinue »
PSALM CXXII. 8, 9. FOR MY BRETHREN AND COMPANIONS' SAKES
I WILL NOW SAY,
THE LORD OUR GOD, I WILL SEEK THY goon."
The Psalmist here declares his resolution to pray for the peace and to seek the prosperity of Jerusalem, the centre of civil and ecclesiastical polity to his nation, from an affectionate regard for his companions and kinsmen, as well as from a devout attachment to the worship of his God.
Without entering into the question which has of late been so amply discussed, as to the sanction afforded by the National Establishment of Religion among the Jews, for a similar institution in christian times, I propose at present to set before you as briefly and plainly as possible, what such an establishment does for our brethren and companions in this land ; or in other words, to illustrate the results of our Parochial Order, which is its chief feature as respects the people, and to which other peculiarities in its discipline and arrangementş, though of great importance in themselves, and apt from incidental circumstances to be more prominent in discussions of this kind, are but auxiliary and subordinate.
Such a subject of illustration cannot, I trust, be deemed unsuited to an occasion on which the administrators of this order, the Parochial Clergy, appear more immediately before their flocks as acting under the superintendence of a chief shepherd, to whom, as we believe, by apostolic institution, as well as by national usage appertains the oversight of their labours. Nor shall I fear the charge of sounding an alarm when no enemy is near, or needlessly meddling with disputed matters, at a time when it is avowed by many professed christians, of whom it would be uncharitable to think otherwise than that they are good men, and therefore entitled to great attention when they profess a deliberate opinion, that the National Establishment of Religion upheld from time immemorial amongst us, is an intolerable grievance; a source of ruin rather than salvation to the souls of the people ; not a good but corrupted institution, the abuses of which require to be reformed, but itself an abuse, a corruption of Christianity, demanding not reformation but destruction.
May He who alone maketh men of one mind, in His own House, as well as every other, impart to us such a spirit of candid inquiry and upright determination, of power, of love, and of a sound mind, that, upon proof had of its real character, we may be disposed to hold fast that which is good, and reverence this ancient ordinance of our rulers, for the Lord's sake.
1. IF ASKED THEN WHAT THE ESTABLISHMENT DOES FOR MY
THOUSAND STATIONS THROUGHOUT THE LAND, IN WHICH THE PURE
GOSPEL IS REGULARLY PROCLAIMED TO THE PEOPLE.
The man of business, the man of pleasure, the great man whose elevation above his fellows may dispose him to forget the obligations of life, the poor man sinking under its sorrows and cares, above all the contrite sinner whose heart the Lord hath opened, if disposed to avail himself of this institution, and resort to any one of our Churches, will hear at its very threshold, that it is his duty, his privilege,—“to render thanks to God for the benefits which he has received, to set forth His most worthy praise, to hear His most holy word, to ask what is requisite, as well for the body as the soul,” but chiefly for the forgiveness of sins, the one thing needful for a fallen creature, who is shortly to appear in the presence of his Creator and Judge.
He will at once be furnished with the proper language, and placed in the proper position of a creature thus fallen and thus responsible; that of humble penitence and confession, the acknowledgement of utter helplessness, the earnest entreaty for pardon and restoration, in the one only way of God's appointment." There is no health in us.”—“ But thou O Lord have mercy on us miserable offenders. Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults. Restore thou them that are penitent; according tothy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesu our Lord."
Thus taught his need, and directed to the source of supply, he will be assured, assured by the voice of an accredited ambassador from the King of Heaven, that He," "the father of our Lord Jesus Christ," "desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness and live ;" that“He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent and unfeignedly believe His holy gospel"; that this true repentance is to be sought and had as His grant, and with it the gift of His Holy Spirit, that both our present and future conduct may be pure, holy, and pleasing to Him, and that at last we may attain His eternal joy.
These glad tidings are proclaimed at the very thresholds of our churches, to all sorts and conditions of men, whensoever their doors are thrown open for the purpose of public worship. He who is inclined to enter and attend the following services, to attend them as a course, and with a mind thus prepared to drink deep into their spirit, will find his thoughts trained onward in the most natural and gentle manner, from acts of penitence, and prayer, and faith, to acts of praise and joyful adoration; from being a suppliant, he will become an intercessor for others; it is hard to imagine one among the endless variety of human wants, whether in time of wealth or tribulation, of life, or death, or judgement, which he will not have an opportunity of particularizing before the Throne of Mercy; and he cannot, no, he cannot depart from the place, having thus attended it, without a soul abounding in love to man, as well as blessed with the peace of God which passeth all understanding.
As to the Instructions which he will receive, still bearing in mind that they are to be regarded as a course, and that thus only can their beauty be fully appreciated, he will be encouraged to come and partake freely of the water of life, to drink it at the fountain head, where it gushes forth most copiously and purely. If in any places of religious assembly that fountain is unsealed, and the cry goes forth, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come, yea come and drink,” it is surely in the churches of the Establishment. Besides that to it, the people are indebled for the translation of the scriptures into their native tongue: it is not possible that its services should be regularly attended by any intelligent person, without the acquisition, I had almost said involuntarily, of large
stores of scriptural knowledge. And he who attends them devoutly, and with an earnest desire to know the way of the Lord more perfectly, as well as to cherish his first feelings of penitence and trust, will rejoice to find at every onward step, the traces of a system. atic design, to unfold and display more fully to his view “the promises of God made to mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord,” and to set before him in their successive order, the several stages of the work of redemption, the nativity, circumcision, temptation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord; the gift of the Holy Ghost; the graces which, as models for our imitation, have been bestowed on his most eminent servants; the glories of the eternal Trinity;-wonders for hourly contemplation, but to which their due prominence is thus preserved, even amidst the boundless expanse of splendor which the word of God unveils,
Nor must I overlook the manner in which this course of instruction and devotion is interwoven with every transaction of ordinary life, and calculated to preserve a succession of pious worshippers'amongst us, no less than to train up the passing generation to ripeness of
age in Christ.
The man whom it has pleased God to call to the knowledge of his
grace and faith in Him, is invited to present his offspring also to God, in Holy Baptism, and reminded that “Baptism doth represent unto us our profession, which is, to follow the example of our Saviour Christ, and to be made like unto Him ; that as he died and rose again for us, so should we, who are baptized, die from sin and rise again to righteousness, continually mortifying all our evil and corrupt affections, and daily proceeding in all virtue and godliness of living."
Not himself only, by nature and his christian profession, but three of his chosen friends, by express promise, are pledged "to see that the child thus dedicated to God, be taught, so soon as he shall be able to learn,” the nature of the privileges conferred upon him, and the solemn responsibility which they entail. For this purpose, a simple and scriptural Catechism explanatory of these privileges and duties, connected as they are with all the articles of Christian faith and practice, is placed in his hands, the whole institution being based on this plain declaration—" that we are not able to do these
things of ourselves, nor to walk in God's commandments and serve Him, without His special grace, which we must learn at all times to call for by diligent prayer."
At an age when an intelligent account can be given of these instructions, and of the effect which they have produced on the mind, an age too in which the results of christian instruction are likely to be put to the proof by new and more powerful temptations, the young person, not left at large as to the obligation of joining himself to the Lord, is exhorted to come forward, and in the solemn rite of Confirmation, renew in his own person the baptismal engagements undertaken by others on his behalf, partaking in the prayers of the Church, offered up by its chief minister, that “he may be defended with God's heavenly grace, that
continue His for cver ; and daily increase in His Holy Spirit more and more, till he comes to His eternal kingdom.”
Marriage, the most important transaction of after life, and that. on which most of its happiness or misery both now and eternally depend, is consecrated by the admonition that it be not undertaken otherwise than “ in the fear of God," and by prayer that He would
sow the seed of eternal life in the hearts of the parties who enter that holy bond, and cause that whatsoever they shall profitably learn in His word (the work of divine instruction being still carried on) they may in very deed fulfil the same.”
The hour of sickness is seized on, as a time for examination into the sincerity of the professions we have made to God at every former period of existence—“ inasmuch as after this life an account is to be given to the Righteous Judge,” and “none other name under Heaven has been given to man in whom health and salvation may
be found, but only the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The return of strength is hailed as a fit season for “remembering the benefits of the Lord, and taking the cup of Salvation in acknowledgement of His goodness,"
The call to repentance and humiliation is periodically repeated amidst the business of life, and we are adjured by the judgements as well as mercies of God, to "take heed betimes while the day of Salva. tion lasteth, because the night cometh when none can work."
And the consignment of those to the grave on whom the night