« PoprzedniaDalej »
nothing but what we honestly and truly find there, we then pledged ourselves to draw from them that doctrine, and establish by them that practice, which we had already satisfied ourselves they warranted the Church in upholding as Christ's command.
Before that pledge was given, was the time for us to settle the momentous questions, whether the Christian teacher can bind himself by any thing more stringent than the naked letter, or narrower than the whole text of Scripture ? and whether the doctrine, sacraments and discipline, that “this Church hath received as commanded by Christ," exhaust the fundamental verities, and comprise the necessary requirements of the Christian faith and life, as taught in Scripture ?
In ordination, we affirmed for ourselves, before God, that we believe they do; and that because they do, we might and ought to bind ourselves to them as the substance and limit of our teaching, the rule and pattern of our ministration.
For our course and conduct in the ministry, no other pledge or declaration beside that (solemn and stringent as it is) which is made in ordination, would seem to be necessary. But to assure all concerned that it was made in full recognition of its nature and effect, a previous written declaration was required, as a condition of admission to ordination, in the form of a "solemn engagement to conform to the doctrines and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States."
By that declaration the verbal pledge in ordination was interpreted in its application to the branch of the
Church of God in which our ministry is cast. “ The doctrine" of Christ which we were “always so to minister as to teach the people with all diligence to keep and observe the same,” was explained to be “the doctrine of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States," — the sacraments and discipline which we were so to minister, were defined as “the worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States.” “This Church" according to whose receiving we are to minister all, was specified by name, as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States.-Not our gatherings for the word of God, or our inventions for His worship, but a certain doctrine and a certain worship of a certain body, having standards and formularies, by which its doctrine and worship, were already known to us and to all, were voluntarily, but most solemnly, in the written declaration and in the public promise, assumed at our admission to the ministry, as thenceforth to be the object of that ministry. It was to consist in teaching the doctrine and ministering the sacraments and discipline, which the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States has received, as according to the command of God; and in striving with all diligence to bring the people for and among whom we minister, to keep and observe that same doctrine, sacraments and discipline.
That this cannot be done by ministrations among other bodies of Christians, needs little argument to prove. Either there are no grounds of difference between us and them; and then they and we are alike condemnable for wicked alienation and disorganization
of the Body of Christ in holding separate communions, without — it need not be said, sufficient, but — any cause: or, if there be any grounds of difference, then those grounds must be forsaken when we go among them, and to that extent we become unfaithful to our pledge of giving all our diligence to the ministry of “the doctrine, sacraments and discipline” of “ this Church.”
But for the government of our due and proper ministry where only as ministers of Christ in this branch of His Church, we have any right or commission to minister, within and for the Church itself, it is of great importance that we should clearly understand where and by what “ the doctrine” of “ this Church,” its sacraments, and discipline, are fixed and determined.
After what has been said, it is unnecessary to speak of the Bible and the Catholic Creeds. « This Church" would be no Church, if it did not acknowledge them as the fountain and pattern of its doctrine — the Bible as its only and all-sufficient source, the Creeds as its irrefragable and necessary form. From them our doctrine, sacraments and discipline are drawn, by them are limited. But what is the substantive form in which that doctrine, sacraments and discipline, are exhibited ? Where did we find them, when we prepared ourselves intelligently and deliberately to profess our reception of them, and determination to adhere to them?
I have spoken of the practical teaching of a particular Church, as consisting in its worship, catechism, articles and canons. The provisions for that practical teaching are its norm or standard, in which it is to be
sought, recognized, professed and carried out, by those to whom the duty is entrusted.
The provisions of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States for worship are all embodied in its Book of Common Prayer. Beside that it has provided for the instruction of the young its Catechism, for the guidance of its ministry the Articles of Religion, and for the government of all, a body of Constitutions, and Canons, general for the whole confederation of dioceses, and diocesan, for each several diocese.
The Constitutions and Canons, general and diocesan, and many of the rubrics of the Prayer Book, make up the standard of our discipline. I leave it, to pass to that of sacraments and doctrine.
It will not be disputed, that what “this Church” holds concerning the number, nature, effects and ministration of the sacraments is to be found in the Book of Common Prayer and Articles of Religion, conjointly taken. Whatever is enjoined, declared, asserted, or by necessary inference affirmed in either, is part of the law or doctrine of the Church. Neither, therefore, can be taken as a standard independently of the other, on any subject. On that of the sacraments, the offices for their administration must necessarily contain the most abundant and minute information and illustration. Prayer, of all human productions, needs to be the most elaborate and best considered. Prayer offered, and doctrine propounded, in the celebration of a sacrament, must have a claim, if any thing human can, to be regarded as duly weighed and
accurately expressed and to be taken, in all strictness, in the precise, native sense of language.
The outline, then, of the doctrine of the Church concerning sacraments, presented in the Catechism and guarded against error in the Articles, is to be filled
up from the Prayer Book. Its express and clear statements concerning the effect of Baptism and the nature of the Eucharist, are the clothing of muscle and integument which gives symmetry, expression and completeness to the well-framed but bare skeleton of generalities in the Catechism and independent particulars in the Articles.
No less than all thus taught by the Church we are bound to teach : nor is any thing more permissible. Positively or negatively, in restraint or in extension, the minister of “ this Church” may not add teaching of his own to the sum of what he gathers from the Prayer Book and the Articles concerning the mysteries by which our union with Christ is effected and kept up; and that he may not be tempted so to do, or unconsciously transgress, he has been tried and tested as to his own satisfaction with that exhibition of those divine provisions for our spiritual wants.
But this brings us to a difficulty.
Human language is always susceptible, in greater or less degree, of misapprehension and perversion. May we not have misunderstood the Prayer Book and Articles, when we made up our minds as to their view of the sacraments? May we not now be misunderstanding them?