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“ You surprise me," said he.
“ You may be surprised, but it is, however, true ; and, if you have no objection, I will tell you how it was."
“ By all means," he answered.
“When I first came to the parish, I looked about for some person to take charge of the Sunday School, as the master was old, and so deaf as to be unequal to the work. I was recommended to apply to Richard Nelson; (that is the man's name)"—Here my friend interrupted me, saying, “Richard Nelson ? why, now I remember, that was the very name of the boy I travelled with.”
_“Indeed !" said I," then doubtless it is the same person: for his age will agree with your account very well, and I know he was bred at National School.”—“ Well,” said he, “ I am quite delighted to find myself a true prophet in this instance." -"Perhaps," said I, "you will be still more pleased when you have heard all I have to tell you: you will find that your little present was by no means thrown away.”—“Go on," said he, “I am all attention."
“I was telling you, I believe, that I requested Nelson to become master of the Sunday School. After some little hesitation, he declined my offer, under the plea that he could not give constant and regular attendance ; though he was willing to attend occasionally, and render what assistance he could. So it was arranged that the old master should still remain ; and I afterwards discovered that an unwillingness to deprive him of the little emolument was Nelson's real reason for declining my offer. As the Sunday School is nearly three-quarters of a mile from my house, in a direction beyond Nelson's, along the Beech Walk, as we call it, it frequently happened that we joined in company as we went to and fro. We generally talked over such subjects as had reference to the School, or to the state of religion in general ; and, amongst other topics, that on which you and I are conversing, the authority of Christian ministers. I remember it was on the following occasion that the subject was started between us :-I thought that I had observed one Sunday that he was making the boys of his class, (our school professes to be on the Bell system,)
that he was, I say, making his boys read the nineteenth and some other of the Thirty-nine Articles relating to the ministerial office, and that afterwards he was explaining and illustrating them, after his usual manner, by referring them to suitable parts of Scripture. On our walk homewards, I inquired if I was right in my conjecture. He said, Yes; and that in the present state of things he could not help thinking it quite a duty to direct the minds of young persons to such subjects. And on this, and many subsequent occasions, he set forth his opinions on the matter, which I will state to you, as far as I can remember, in his own words.”
“ My good mother," he said, “not long before her death, which happened about half a year before I came to live here, said to me very earnestly one day, as I was sitting by her bed side, My dear Richard, observe my words; never dare to trifle with God Almighty.' By this I understood her to mean, that in all religious actions we ought to be very awful, and to seek nothing but what is right and true. And I knew that she had always disapproved of people's saying, as they commonly do, that it little matters what a man's religion is, if he is but sincere;' and
that one opinion or one place of worship is as good as another.' To say, or think, or act so, she used to call "Trifling with God's truth;' and do you not think, sir, (addressing himself to me,) that she was right ?"
“ Indeed I do," said I.
“And,” he said, “I was much confirmed in these opinions by constantly reading a very wise, and, as I may say to you, precious book, which a gentleman gave me some years ago, whom I met by chance, when I was going to see my father in the infirmary. It is called a 'Selection from Bishop Wilson's Works,' and there are many places in it which show what his opinions were on this subject; and, I suppose, Sir, there can be no doubt that Bishop Wilson was a man of extraordinary judgment and piety."
“He has ever been considered so," I answered.
“I could not think much of any one's judgment or piety either, who should say otherwise," he replied; "and what Bishop Wil
son says is this, or to this effect :- That to reject the government of Bishops, is to reject an ordinance of God!."
“That 'our salvation depends under God, upon the ministry of those whom Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost have appointed to reconcile men to God?'
“That the personal failings of ministers do not make void their commission'
“ That if the Unity of the Church is once made a light matter, and he who is the centre of Unity, and in Christ's stead, shall come to be despised, and his authority set at nought, then will error and infidelity get ground; Jesus Christ and his Gospel will be despised, and the kingdom of Satan set up again here as well as in other nations *.' With many other expressions like these.
“And yet, Sir,” he continued, " the gentleman who lives over there, (pointing to a great house in sight, four or five miles off down the valley,) who is said to be a person of much learning, and who does a great deal of good, he does not take the matter in the same light. For he told a man of —, whom I was working with, that if a person preached what was right and good, that was the best sign of his being ordained a minister, without the ceremony of laying on a Bishop's hands upon his head. And the man that told me very much admired the opinion, in regard (he said) of its being so very liberal, or some such word. Though I confess I could not exactly see what there was so much to admire. Because, if the opinion were true, it was good, and if it were false, it was bad, equally as much (to my thinking) whether it were called liberal or bigoted.”
“ Doubtless you were right,” said I. “ And,” he proceeded, “it seemed to me, (and I told the man so,) like going round and round in a wheel, to say, If he is God's minister, he preaches what is good ; and if he preaches what is good, he is God's minister. For still the question will be, what is right and good ? and some would say one thing and some another; and some would say there is nothing right nor good at all in itself, but only as
1 Sacra Priv.
2 Serm. 38. 4 Charge 1721.
seems most expedient to every person for the time being. So for my own satisfaction, and hoping for God's blessing on my endeavour, I resolved to search the matter out for myself as well as I could. My plan was this. First to see what was said on the subject in the Church Prayer Book, and then to compare this with the Scriptures; and if, after all, I could not satisfy myself, I should have taken the liberty of consulting you, Sir, if I had been here, or Mr. who was the minister at where I came from."
“ Yours was a good plan,” I said ; "but I suppose you had forgotten that the chief part of the Church Services which relate to these subjects, is not contained in the Prayer Books which we commonly use."
“I was aware of that,” he answered, " but my wife's father had been clerk of -- parish, and it so happened that the churchwarden had given him a large Prayer Book in which all the Ordination Services were quite perfect, though the book was ancient and in some parts very ragged. This book my wife brought with her when we came here, and indeed she values it very highly on account of her poor father having used it for so many years. Thus you see, Sir, with the Bible and Prayer Book, and, (as I hoped,) God's blessing on my labours, I was not, as you may say, unfurnished for the work.
"Indeed, Richard, you were not," I replied.
“Well then," he proceeded, " I first observed, that the Church is very particular in not allowing any administration of the Sacraments, or any public service of ALMIGHTY God to take place, except when there is one of her ministers to guide and take the lead in the solemnity. Thus not only in the administration of Baptism, and of the Lord's Supper, but in the daily Morning and Evening Prayers, in the public Catechizing of Children, in the Solemnization of Marriage, in the Visitation of the Sick, and in the Burial of the Dead ;-in all these cases the Christian congregation is never supposed complete, nor the service perfect, unless there be also present a minister authorized to lead the devotions of the people. And yet I also observed that neither minister nor people, not even with the leave of the Bishop himself, had power or authority given them to alter or vary from the rules set down in the Prayer Book. And often have I thought how well it would be if ministers and people too would be more careful to keep to the rules."
“Yes,” said I, “it is too true; we are all to blame."
“But,” he proceeded, taking a small Prayer Book out of his pocket, “ the question I had next to ask was, who are meant by these ministers so often referred to in the Church Service. To this question 1 found a general answer in the Twenty-third, Twenty-sixth, and Thirty-sixth Articles; where the judgment of the Church is thus plainly given.
“Ist. That it is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of public preaching, or ministering the Sacraments in the Congregation, before he be lawfully called and sent to execute the same.'
“2ndly. That those are lawfully called and sent, who are chosen and called to the work by men who have public authority given them in the Congregation to call and send Ministers into the Lord's vineyard.'
“ 3rdly. “That though sometimes evil men may have chief authority in the ministration of the Word and Sacraments; yet, forasmuch, as they do not the same in their own name but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their ministry with full hope of God's blessing.'
“4thly. “That whosoever are consecrated and ordained according to the Rites there prescribed, are rightly, orderly, and lawfully consecrated and ordained.'
“But here, Sir, I will take occasion to ask you whether it would not have been better, instead of calling the second order of ministers Priests, to have used the word which is frequently found in the New Testament applied to them, “Elders,' or Presbyters.'”
“ Why," I said, “ I have no doubt the wise and good men who framed the Prayer Book had a good reason for retaining the title of Priests. But in truth it is one of the very words you mentioned, only somewhat shortened by our forefathers in their