« PoprzedniaDalej »
duty, and of confirming others in a firm adherence to it is the prayer of
ORTHODOXos. April 11, 1791.
[In the following paper appeared a ludicrous reply to this serious address, in which the writer (a dissenting teacher of some note in the west of England) endeavoured to turn the whole into ridicule, and to represent the author as a Roman Catholic. On this the letterwriter in the ensuing week gave the following answer, which effectually silenced his adversary.]
TO THE PRINTER, &c.
SIR, I as little expected, as intended that the address which I sent to your paper, exhortatory to a due observance of Good Friday, should have excited a spirit of controversy. The burlesquer of that address in your last paper knows best what his motives were in so doing, but I am happy in asserting, that mine in drawing up the obnoxious article were only a reverence for the honour of God, and the good of his church. The same principle now prompts me to defend what the burlesquer could ridicule but not refute. He with all the meanness of a sectary wishes and endeavours to expose me as a papist, and my arguments as intended to serve the cause of the Roman church. This has been invariably the case with persons of his profession ever since the reformation, and those who have been zealous for the primitive doctrines and discipline of the church have always been stigmatized by the puritanical party, as symbolizing with popery, Notwithstanding this reproach which has been cast upon some of the soundest protestants and the best christians that ever lived, I shall still continue an advocate for erternal religion, and those outward forms and observances, which are necessary to keep alive in the mind a grateful remembrance of the great things which our blessed Lord has done for us, and to express to the world our attachment to his faith and worship.
This is the more needful at the present time when there is such a general indifference to christian principles, and christian duties, under the pretence of professing a rational system of religion. This affectation of a rational Faith may have its effect upon such persons as are proud of their intellectual powers and literary acquirements, but upon the greater part of the community it can have no other effect than to lead them into an indifference to, if not an absolute contempt for religion altogether.
The establishment of rites and ceremonies, as well as the setting apart of times and seasons for religious purposes, is a wise and salutary measure to instruct the great mass of the people, and to preserve in them a becoming reverence to the author of their being, and a lively sense of gratitude to the Saviour of their souls.
Christianity, as it stands in the New Testament, is adapted solely to men of plain and teachable dispositions ;--the proud reasoners and sensible disputanis of this world are not attended to therein. If it had been the design of its author to accommodate it to the use principally of the wise and the learned, he would have expressed his doctrines in a more refined manner, and delivered his precepts in a more systematic order than he has done. But his design was to form the minds of his followers into a docile simplicity, and to lead them on in the walk of humility to eternal happiness.
For this purpose christians are required in every part of the New Testament, to follow the Saviour in ali things, to set his example before them in all their actions, and to contemn that pride of reason which is only calculated to make men « wise in their own conceits.' Now to carry on this design of christianity, external religion appears to be indispensably necessary: for the more christians are kept in mind of their master, the more will they be animated to persevere in his service; the more lovely will this render him in their esteem, the more will they be weaned from an affection to this world, and the clearer will be their view and hope of that which is to come.
And of the various parts of external religion, I can not but regard the observance of Good Friday as one peculiarly inportant.
Though this certainly was not positively appointed in the New Testament; yet if it was observed by the early believers in christianity, and if there are good reasons
for keeping it, I should then suppose that its not being a scriptural appointment, can be no more a rational objection than it would against the celebration of the deliverance on the 5th of November, or any other national mercy. But I would beg leave to ask, why is the first day of the week observed instead of the seventh? Hath the New Testament directly ordained the change, or have the words of the fourth commandment been altered by our Lord or his immediate disciples?--Now if we keep the first day of the week as the christian sabbath instead of the seventh, conformably to the practice of the first christians, why should we not observe other times and seasons for religious purposes as they did ?
And that Good Friday was observed by the primitive christians, I will shortly prove: Clemens Alexandrinus, who flourished in the second century, says, “ that the church fasted in his time on every Wednesday and every Friday* :” and if this was a usual custom then, we can hardly suppose that they omitted the great annual Friday, but observed it in a more strict and solemn manner as commemorative of the passion of Christ. Ter. tullian who lived in the same period, bears witness also to this in his controversial tract De Jejunio, written in behalf of Montanism, where he asserts that the Orthodox observed prescribed fasts upon those days, wherein the bridegroom was taken from them, that is evidently passion week t. And a still earlier father Irenæus describes particularly the usual mode and times of fasting at that solemn season.
Now, I would only ask whether we are better chris. tians than those illustrious confessors and martyrs, and whether we have not as strong an obligation upon us to commemorate the sufferings and death of our Redeeiner as they had ?
The pride of reason may indeed prompt us to despise their examples; but that pride will not enable us to face persecution and death, in order to keep a good conscience, and to enjoy the reward of it as intrepidly as they did.
As to the reasons for keeping Good Friday, I should hope that no real christian can stand in need of them: for what surely can be more commendable than to devote
Strom. 1. 7. f Opera. ed. Paris. p. 645. Apud. Euseb. Vol VIII. Churchm. Mug. March 1805.
one day in the year to contemplate the great work of our salvation, as it was accomplished on the cross?
If it be fit and right to celebrate national or particular deliverances, or other events of an interesting nature, nothing can be more becoming than the solemn celebration of that great and universal deliverance of the whole world from eternal wrath, which the christian church eommemorates on this day!
But an objection has been taken to the reverential terms in which I have mentioned the cross of Christ, and insinuations have been thrown out, as though in so doing I have given an advantage to papists.
Every person who is at all acquainted with the New Testament, and the writings of the early apologists for christianity, cannot but know that a profuund reverence for the cross was a considerable characteristic of the primitive church. “ God forbid (says St. Paul) that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, Gal. vi. 14.
And this was the general. glory of christians during the first and best ages. Tertullian asserts, that “they did not go out or come home; lie down or arise; eat or drink, or discourse without first signing themselves on the forehead with the sign of the cross*.**
And when any of the holy martyrs were dragged to torture or execution, they gloried in their profession by making this sign as a proof of their attachment to a crucified Saviour. To dwell upon this tender idea, they regarded as their joy and privilege: thus St. Ignatius who was contemporary with St. John the evangelist, constantly used this motto O eqws spē sccupwice " My love is crucified."
I have also offensively said that “our Saviour will bring this sign with him triumphantly displayed at the last day:" and I verily believe it, for it appears highly reasonable, that he who finished the salvation of sinners, and the consequent ruin of satau's kingdom upon the cross, should briug the same sign with him as the token of his victory. Besides the christian church in the primitive times entertained the same notion, as appears from the writings of Clemens of Alexandria, Origen, Chrysostom and others.--But the Scripture, to me gives a decided testimony on the point, when it is said that “ the sign of
the Son of Man shall appear in Heaven, Matt. xxiv. so, and what sign is so proper to him in his mediatorial character, as the one by which he overcame death, and became the author of eternal salvation to all them that believe?
A modern prelate of distinguished piety and learning*, was calumniated as popishly inclined for having the cross inlaid in marble over the altar in his private chapel. For my part I cannot well estinate the value of that piety or liberality which can make men so squeamish against the use of a sign which is at least harmless, even though it should not produce, the proper effect of putting men in mind of their Saviour who died for them.
To bow down and worship any feigned representation, or to make a superstitious use of this, or any other particular sign, would indeed be highly censurable, as tending to symbolize with idolatry; but we should be careful not to despise or set aside any salutary and instructive custom, rite or ceremony, merely because others have made an ill use of it.
I am, &c.
TO THE EDITORS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN'S
DevotioNAI REFLECTIONS on Select Portions of Scrip
The very hairs of your head are all numbered.-Matt. x. 30.
lar providence may be evidently understood from this important passage of Holy Writ; but, at the same time, it is a doctrine or principle which very many amongst us are disposed to controvert, or at least to treat with an indifference and disregard highly unbecoming the character of reasonable and accountable beings.--God is undoubtedly present every where; he sees all our actions, and knows all our thoughts. Ob
* Bishop Butler of Bristol, afterwards of Durham.