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Delivered before the Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of
New York, October 3d, 1833,
BY THE REV. PIERRE ALEXIS PROAL, A. M.
RECTOR OF ST. GEORGE'S CHURCH, SCHENBCTADY.
Rom. xvi. 3.-" My helpers in CHRIST JEsos."*
The present is a period full of interest in the history of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Through the good providence of God the Zion we love has been extended and strengthened ; —by the increase of her numbers; by a diminution of the prejudice which existed against her distinctive principles and policy; by a more enlightened and correct appreciation of her merits as a component part of that Church of the living God, declared by an inspired A postle to be the “ground and pillar of
This text expresses St. Paul's commendation of " Aquila and Priscilla," for having aided him in advancing the interests of CHRIST's religion.
These persons were Jews by nation, who had resided at Rome; but being expelled from that city by an edict of the Emperor, they had taken refuge at Corinth. They were tent-makers by occupation. During the Apostle's stay at Corinth they had given him the hospitalities of their house. Hence a close and intimate friendship existed between them, terminating only with the earthly life of the Apostle. At tbe hazard of their own lives, they had preserved bis for the service of the Churches; and they diligently co-operated with him in promoting the great interests of the religion of the cross; aiding St. Paul in his lavors for Christ. The Apostle frequently remembers them in his salutations with particular affection and regard, and in the text styles them his "helpers in Christ Jesus.”
truth ;'* and, may I not be permitted to add ? by the increase of that unity, harmony, and brotherly love, which bind us all in the strong bands of Christian fellowship.
The present circumstances of our Church, therefore, call loudly upon every individual within her fold to renewed and unwearied exertion, for the advancement of that "evangelical truth and apostolic order” so conspicuous in her ordinances, ministry, and worship.
I have long been deeply impressed with the conviction, that while it is generally conceded, that “it is not meet” for the clergy “to leave the word of God and serve tables;"7 and while the laity of our Church are found faithful in a watchful care over its temporalities : still, from the natural tendency of the buman mind to pass to extremes, the fidelity with which the sacred office of Christ's spiritual ambassador has been guarded from all encroachment, has led, in some degree, to the overlooking of those means by which a Christian laity may become fellow-laborers with the Christian ministry in hastening the happy period, when, in fulfilment of ancient prophecy, “ The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”+
The general and particular duties of the clergy have been frequently enforced, on occasions similar to the present, with eloquence and ability; often by one whose voice was never heard among us but with feelings of the highest veneration and delight. On an occasion when, through their immediate representatives, we may be considered as addressing the entire body of the laity of our Church, it has occurred to me that I could not more profitably occupy your time than by calling your attention to some of the means by which the laity may become the “helpers in Christ Jesus” to the clergy in the noble work of advancing pure and undefiled religion.
Under the full persuasion that Christian people are under indispensable obligations to co-operate with their pastors in the work of furthering the Gospel of Christ to its completion, I ask your pious attention to the several points which I propose as the heads of the following discourse.
* 1 Tim. üi. 15.
Acts vi. 2.
# Isa. xi. 9,
$ Bishop Hobart.
I. A Christian laity may aid their pastors in diffusing the influence of pure and undefiled religion, by a devout and constant attendance upon public worship.
The ministry is a divine institution. It was ordained of God for the evangelizing of the world ; and these divinely commissioned heralds of the cross are “ the messengers of the LORD,"_" ambassadors for Christ,”*_" stewards of the mysteries of God,”+-they “watch for your souls as they who must give account,”1—they plead with you for Christ's sake to become reconciled to God in the exercise of true repentance and a living faith. But how can they discharge the momentous duties involved in their high commission, if the people of their cure will not wait on their ministry? What will it avail, though the truths which are “ able to make you wise unto everlasting salvation,"S be inculcated with all the fervent zeal of a Paul, or the impassioned eloquence of an Apollos, if addressed to those who regard the preaching of the word with cold indifference, or contemn it by neglect? How often, indeed, must the faithful pastor mourn that he labors in vain in regard to that portion of bis flock who habitually or frequently absent themselves from the sanctuary, or are unmoved by its heart-stirring services !
Every obligation that can influence rational and accountable beings, enforces the duty of devout attendance upon public worship. Thus only can we show to the community, in which we live, our esteem and value for Christ's religion. It is thus that we most effectually promote the cause of good order and religion, by the example of deep reverence for the institutions of our holy faith ; the influence of which will be more particularly felt in our families, exhibiting to our children and all around us, our deep conviction of the infinite importance, and divine origin and excellence of this heavenly institution. Nor, brethren, will its effects upon yourselves be less beneficial. You are immortal
* 2 Cor, v. 20.
1 Cor. iv, 1.
# Heb. xüi. 17.
§ 2 Tim. iii. 15.
beings, whose destinies in eternity are conditioned upon a due improvement of the present probationary existence. The Gospel of Jesus Christ exhibits the only way of salvation for lost and guilty man, for his “is the only name given among men, whereby we must be saved."* Vain, therefore, is the fancy which imagines that a divinely constituted priesthood is not essential to the furtherance of the Gospel. Never would the divine head of his Church have burdened his spiritual body with the care and support of a standing ministry, could the world bave been converted simply by means of circulating His holy word, unattended by commissioned messengers to administer its ordinances, and receive mankind into covenant with God,- to explain its doctrines-enforce its precepts, and press home to the conscience its sanctifying truths. In the establishment of the ministerial order, by Christ himself, we have sufficient assurance of its necessity; and in the unfailing promise of his abiding presence to the end of time, we bave demonstration of its perpetuily. If, therefore, wo awaits the clergy if they preach not the everlasting Gospel of the blessed Jesus, what must be the portion of those who will not hear the word we are commanded to preach? I pray you then, brethren, dearly beloved in the LORD, be constant and devout in your attendance on the worship of the sanctuary; for thus, you aid the ministry by encouraging the attendance of your own households and all who will be influenced by your example. Moreover, it is thus you animate your pastor, elevating his spirits, and giving ardor to his zeal, by inspiring him with the earnest hope of success in winning souls to CHRIST. And although, from superior advantages, your own souls stand less in need of bis aid or counsel in strengthening you for your spiritual conflicts: though your Christian attainments raise you above such means of edification as he can furnish, yet are there claims upon your devout and constant attendance on the services of the Church, growing out of your duty to join with your lips and your hearts in the public worship of your God
• Acts iv. 12.
and Saviour; and to contribute to the efficacy of the word and ordinances, dispensed by an apostolic priesthood, among your families, and those within the circle of your influence, who may not be superior to religious instruction, howerer humble, or however simple. Yes, fellow Christians, the faithful pastor ardently longs for the salvation of his people,--that Christ may be formed in them of a truth,--that they may grow up in all things like unto CHRIST, who is the head of his body the Church. By your steadfast and devout attendance on divine worship you aid the advancement of these stupendous objects : in this particular, within your allotted sphere, you help to roll on to its completion the great work of evangelizing the world; and in this respect, as far as in you lieth, you become to the ministers of Christ's Church their helpers in Christ Jesus."
II. A second mode in which a Christian laity may aid the clergy, and become their “ helpers in Christ Jesus,” is that of bringing their children to them for catechetical instruction.
In this way, my brethren, can you effectually second our labors. If parents are indifferent to the ministry, and the divine instruction they are specially commissioned to deliver, youth will very naturally regard it as a useless invention ; and rather treat it as a matter of unconcern, than as a mean of grace and salvation. If the laity would only consider, for a moment, the solemn obligations involved in their parental relation and responsibility,--that their children are a gift and heritage from God,--that like themselves they are immortal beings, who are to be trained here on earth, and rendered meet for the kingdom of heaven,--and as such, are talents intrusted to the parent's care for the master's use, and for the cultivation of which he will be called to render a strict account. If these considerations were duly weighed, Christian parents would arouse from their lethargy, and be up and doing for the spiritual necessities of their charge.
In reference to secular learning and worldly occupations, you feel it your bounden duty to provide and secure to your children proper and sufficient instruction. If this be obligatory in respect