Obrazy na stronie

ject. Mr. Gisborne writes :-" To draw up forms of public prayer on particular occasions falls within the province of the bishops. In framing them, care should be taken to shun adulation; and if the events to which they relate are of a political nature, all expressions should be avoided, as far as may be found practicable, which may be likely to wound the consciences of clergymen who are to use them. In the time of the American war, when the sentiments of the nation were so divided respecting the justice of the contest, it is probable that many clergymen of anquestionable loyalty and attachment to their sovereign entertained such opinions, or at least such doubts, on the subject, as to feel great scruples in delivering the strong language adopted in the prayers then prescribed." Duties of Men, ch. xi.-Mr. Gisborne's important statement reminds us of the embarrassment felt by many persons at the Restoration; who, however they execrated the murderers of Charles the First, were very far from adopting the views of the royal party in the contest with the parliament. They hesitated to denominate the opposition to the king's measures The Great Rebellion. The men referred to were not plebeians and puritans; but noblemen, and gentlemen of high consideration, and upholders of episcopal discipline. So far indeed were the puritans from being the main pillars of the Usurpation, that several of their most distinguished leaders were active in restoring the royal government. The conduct of Sancroft (above mentioned) under such circumstances was impolitic and feeble to an unaccountable degree. Had he possessed but an average share of foresight, he might have suspected that influence is a treasure never to be lavished away; and that it is extremely unwise to waste in health the resources of sickness.

There does not appear to be any authority vested in the bench, where by a clergyman is compelled to use these forms. Some years since, Mr.

Daubeny refused to read a clause which, as he judged, was disorderly*. This omission was notorious; but nothing was done by his diocesan. Omissions indeed are, I believe, not unfrequent. I am certainly myself acquainted with many clergymen who mutilate according to their several notions of propriety. Some of them shelter their irregularity under Mr. Daubeny's sanction. How far all this is defensible I know not; but in the mean time the credit of the church at large is shaken. People argue that the clergy are wantonly disobedient to their superiors; or that they secretly blush for them, and are willing to conceal their vulnerable parts by reading only such a portion of the state prayers as presents no open front to the menace of an enemy, or to the kind suspicions of a friend. This unnatural state of things reminds me of what was said during the agitation of the Bullion Question;— During this depreciation of the currency, all the blame falls upon Government; all the loss upon the nation; and the Bank gains every thing. Without asserting or denying the justice of this tripartite statement, it is safe to aver that every degradation of the ecclesiastical power disgraces the bishops, injures the religious public, and aids the schemes of separatists. The church loses what she can least spare; and gains just nothing.

Reputation, Sir, is the life of a government. In proportion as this declines, the exchequer is virtually drained of its treasure, and the physical strength of the empire is enervated. Now the credit of the established church must necessarily sink, if her servants have so faultering a reliance on the sagacity of the hierarchy, as always to examine the mandates they are required to obey. Such a serutiny is the germ of a civil convulsion. If the church persist in constructing formularies which are fairly open to the criticism of

See Christian Observer for 1804, p. 46.

undergraduates and bishops' secretaries, numbers of her most sagacious friends will regard her determination as contributing, with other causes, to a disastrous issue. If she fall under such circumstances, she will not fall with dignity. The jury will hesitate between lunacy and felo de se. I hope we shall not live to walk over our mother's grave, to see her buried with ignominy, exposed to the insulting gaze of stran gers, and serving thenceforward as a practical thesis for the declamation of infidels and jesuits! It will then be too late for Mr. Simeon to publish sermons on the Excellence of the Liturgy; and Dr. Marsh may then gather the harvest of his exertions. The fall of a great establishment will not be "the consequence of neglecting to give the Prayerbook with the Bible;" particularly as no such neglect existed; but rather the consequence of neglecting to clothe our occasional formularies with something which will not force men of common information to talk loud and long about ecclesiastical degeneracy.

I may be accused of attributing great events to feeble causes. I do not, however, argue the ruin of the church exlusively from the composition of a prayer, but from the natural and notorious practice of mankind to judge by a thing done of the doer of it. If this rule be correct, they will, in the present case, judge by a prayer of the prayer-maker; exactly as they measure a preacher by his sermon; and exactly as they take the dimensions of Lord Wellington's military character by the battle" in the neighbourhood of Salamanca." The mass of men, and particularly men of the British islands, are downright, practical philosophers; reasoners a posteriori; occasional blunderers to be sure, and frequently patted out of a growl into a gambol; but, in the main, they are unwilling long to support what they cannot respect. To secure their fidelity, you must command their veneration. If their esteem be once

forfeited and lost, to regain it may require a more costly sacrifice than you may be able or ready to offer.

In adverting to the importance of public opinion, I must be understood to signify those of our countrymen who chose to think for them. selves; and who, from a certain degree of leisure, from occasional intercourse with intellectual persons, from reading, and from discussion, are at least able to distinguish an assertion from an argument; and are accustomed to refuse submission to commands not founded upon authority which themselves recognise. The class of persons here described is by no means to be despised either for numbers or information. Edmund Burke, somewhat less than twenty years ago, estimated their amount at eighty thousand; a formidable mass, and, in effect, the masters of the empire. Supposing the numbers by this period to have swelled to one hundred thousand, let the friends of the established church subtract from this aggregate papists, dissenters, and infidels; three classes consistently pledged to overthrow it. If the deduction be only fifty thousand (I should make it more), there is still a farther defalcation in the very numerous classes of neutral churchmen; or of persons who, as supporters of the establishment, are perfectly inefficient, if not virtual conspirators with its professed enemies. Let the hierarchy then survey this immense host, and in their future acts of government regard the principle of self-preser vation so far as not to commit the reputation of the church to a feeble agent. The lovers of our venerable establishment are miserably disheartened by seeing her practise the attitudes of a suicide. If her death be really desirable, she may obtain it without sacrilegiously conspiring with assassins. She bad better wait, than anticipate.

I wish, in conclusion, to offer some advice, not perhaps unseasonable, to many lay members of the united church :-Do not too hastily

quarrel with the state forms of pray-
er, lest your devotion be lost in
criticism. An ill-constructed act of
devotion may be used with edifica-
tion; and a poor prayer is better
than none at all. You have no oc-
casion, indeed, to call evil good;
nor to prefer an occasional form to
the all but inspired Liturgy of your
church, or to the devout aspirations
of Andrews, Patrick, and Taylor,
of Baxter and Henry, Jenks and
Bean. Your willingness to use im-
perfect forms may in the end produce
the consequence of your being fa-
voured with such prayers as will, by
their spirituality and unction, ele
vate and invigorate your minds, and
cause you to forget the ungrateful
feelings formerly occasioned by sen-
timents and expressions which,
while you could scarcely approve
them, were yet made the instru-
ments of your own and
try's welfare. In the mean time,
humbly endeavour to supply the
deficiencies you lament, by an in-
creased fervour in your private de-
votion. Do not expect, in this
world's vineyard, to gather fruit from
every vine. The vintage at the best
is scanty. We have many, many,
privileges; and if we are too queru-
lous about matters of a secondary
importance, we may forfeit or neg.
lect what we may never repossess,
nor again value. Let us beware of
wandering from a scrutiny of our
selves in a pruriency to detect im-
perfection in others; lest (when the
discovery will be unavailing) we
find that we have never impartially
examined our individual character;
but have purchased a familiarity
with the moral failures of mankind
at the cost of our own salvation.

your coun


To the Editor of the Christian Observer.

Ir is a matter of concern to me when I observe religious persons adopting, whether deliberately or through inadvertence, modes of speaking which in their effects are CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 130.

likely to be pernicious. The error, I fear, is not unfrequent; and is in its consequences more mischievous than may be apprehended. To one instance of it I wish to call your attention, and that of your readers.

When persons of the description now termed evangelical (I use the term for the sake of intelligibility) inquire into the state of religion in a distant parish, they are sometimes heard to ask, "whether the Gospel has been preached there in the Established Church." I have known this question to be put by a clergyman respecting the parish of which he was about to undertake the charge. It is a question to which, whatever be the parish concerning which it may be proposed, and whoever may have been or may be the minister of that parish, there is but one answer to be returned: Unquestionably, the Gospel has been preached in the Established Church there, and up to Wherever the this very moment. Liturgy of the Church of England is the medium of public worshipa Liturgy holding prominently forth, from the beginning to the end, the grand peculiarities of Christianity, and involving, as a part of the public service, the regular reading of the Scriptures-there the Gospel is constantly and fully preached."

On the example of unwarrantable language which I have stated, the following remarks may not be irrelevant.

In the first place, such a question, or any other mode of speech analogous to it (and it may fairly be assumed that a person who propounds such a question is likely to employ at other times phraseology of the same cast), cannot but give extreme offence to numbers of the members of the Church of England who may hear of it. Be it allowed that the offence would be aggravated by prejudice; yet the ground for strong and decided disapprobation is just. Suppose a clergyman, settling in a parish, to be known to have used such language: how odious it must 40

sound to the friends of his predecessor! How unpleasant and how strange to a large portion, if not to the mass, of the parishioners! What sneers would it needlessly provoke from the openly profane! What triumph would it needlessly excite in the minds of enemies of the Establishment! What secret aversion, if not open hostility, would it rouse against this clergyman, among a portion at least of his surrounding clerical brethren! What drawbacks and impediments would it cause, in a variety of ways, to the usefulness of his labours and of his example!

In the next place, such language is in the highest degree injurious to the Liturgy and to the Establishment. What is likely to be the effect on the minds of the common people, to say nothing of the higher orders, if they are impliedly given to understand that they may have been regularly attending for years the public service of the Church of England, praying her prayers, confessing in her confessions, adoring in her adorations, seeking for grace according to her instructions, looking for justification in the manner and on the basis to which she directs them, and that during all this time they have heard nothing of the Gospel? Can our imagination easily represent to us a mode in which a clergyman can more deeply wound the church of which he is a minister, or a mode in which he can add greater force to the arguments with which dissenters of different classes will labour, and on their own principles consistently, to alienate his flock from attachment to our public service, and to draw them over to new pastors?

Thirdly. Such language manifestly and powerfully tends to foster the extravagant preference, which perhaps most men, and certainly the lower orders, are disposed to give to preaching over prayer. Let me not be suspected of undervaluing preaching. I fully acknowledge and value the scriptural sacredness

of the ordinance. But prayer and intercession and supplication and thanksgiving constitute a scriptural ordinance also: and persons who have exercised their attention on the subject in question can scarcely fail to have perceived, that (through causes which I do not pause to state) the latter ordinance is not merely undervalued in comparison with the former; but that by multitudes it is accounted almost as nothing, unless when, by being ministered extemporaneously, it acquires interest from novelty, or from the idea that it is the result of immediate inspiration. How injudicious to encourage an error in itself of great magnitude, and obviously hostile to the pure church to which we betong!

Fourthly. Such language is cal culated to raise up and to cherish pride, and pride of the darkest shade, in the persons who indulge themselves in it. If a clergyman be of the number, he is apt to enter on his ministry, not with the feelings of one who is to be the helper of the faith of his fellow Christians, but with the impressions of a teacher sent forth to evangelize a body of heathen. He is in imminent danger of regarding the attainments and the exertions of the minister who preceded him (I assume them to have been defective) as more defective and less efficacious than was actually the case; to look upon the generality of his brethren in the vicinity with a supercilious eye; and to become the narrow-minded partisan of a' class in religion, instead of cherishing a catholic spirit and manifesting impartial justice towards those from some of whose opinions he may differ. And it may become a fearful question, whether, amidst his superior knowledge and more active labours as a clergyman, his spiritual pride may not be more offensive in the sight of Heaven, than even the negligence and the guilty ignorance of his predecessor.


[blocks in formation]


HE dies! the Conqu'ror dies! Celestial love
With god-like warmth his bosom fires;
For man he quits the realms above,
For man he bleeds, for man expires!
Guilt, trembling, grasps the spear
That cleaves his sacred side;

The direful stroke affrighted seraphs hear, And shriek, and deep in night their faces hide.

Forth bursts the crimson flood!

Hark! hark! with shouts that read the sky, Th'infuriate murd'rers wildly cry,

"On us, on us descend his vengeful blood!"

Loud howls the blast!-the frighted rocks

Yawn to their adamantine base;
E'en Death his rigid grasp unlocks,
And quits his cold embrace.
His captives mark his wild despair,
And, gladly bursting from the tomb,
Regardless of their mortal doom,
Glide through the lurid air.
The blusking sun conceals his rays,

And darkness sleeps profound,
Save when the lightning's momentary blaze
Gleams through the night, and rives the
trembling ground.
Beyond the skies

The shouts incessant rise,
And pierce the eternal bars of light
That guard Heaven's throne :—
E'en amidst the realms of night,
Where tortured furies groan,

The sound is heard; fell demons list'ning

With wond'ring ear, to catch the infernal cry;
While Hell's terrific caves reply,
With echoes that shall never die,
"On us, on us his blood descend!"

It comes! it comes! the destined vengeance falls!

Vespasian's ruthless hand,
Impelled by Heaven's command,
Hurls lightning on thy desecrated walls.—
See! from imperial Rome

The blood-stained eagles come! Thy virgins ravished fall! Thy infants bleed;

Incarnate furies urge the deed;-
Thy domes ten thousand flames surround;
Thy standards sweep the bloody ground;

Thy unwept heroes press the tomb;
And ruin endless seals thy vengeful doom!
Behold each trembling outcast fly,
To seek, beneath an unknown sky,
Some rocky cleft by torrents torn,
Some den concealed with ragged thorn,
His throbbing brow to hide;
With joy he hails the cave forlorn,
A refuge from the bitter scorn

Of unrelenting pride.

Ah, Salem! view the curse thy offspring bear,

Memorial of thy blood-invoking prayer ;—-
Unknown, unpitied, o'er the world they stray,
Where fear impels, or av'rice points the way.
Behold their pangs! in every feature trace
The stamp that insulates the guilty race;
Dejected, spurned, they curse the hated
And sink, unwept, to realms of torture and
of night!

But, hark! what sounds of thrilling pleasure
Burst from seraphic harps above!
Catch! catch the soft, enchanting measure,
The chords of sympathy and love.
Wildly sweet the echoes languish
To console the breast of anguish;
Softly they float the gale along,

For mercy is the song:-
"The Conqu'ror died, the Conqu'ror rose,
Rose to demand his starry crown,
And hurl the pointed lightning down
With sacred vengeance on his foes.
But Pity, gentle guest,

The inmate of his breast,
Urged him the guilty race to spare;

Smiling, he heard her soft request,
Then clasped the outcasts to his breast,
And spent the vengeful shaft in air.
Behold, in yon celestial clime,
A lovelier Salem springs sublime!
Through Heaven's eternal age,
Unmoved, the hallowed walls shall stand,
Nor fear the ruthless warrior's rage,

Or Time's relentless hand.

Hither, O Salem's wand'rer, come,
And claim thy long-forgotten home!
No more shall torturing fiends await
Thy passage to th' infernal gate;
No more Heaven's vengeful thunders roll,
To agonize thy guilty soul;
But blooming seraphs shall expand
The portals of the promised land;
Shall sweetly calm thy parting groan,
Then waft thee to th' eternal throne,
Where, robed in never-fading charms,
Thy own Messiah smiles, and calls thee to
his arms."

« PoprzedniaDalej »