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nance of the Church, whereby we humble ourselves for the sins which caused that Death, should not, if men once came seriously to consider it, be promptly, and with very wholesome results, restored. I doubt not that if the question were formally proposed to the Spiritual Authorities of our Church, whether they would think it advisable that our stated Fasts should be abolished, they would earnestly deprecate it. Their silence therefore on this subject is rather to be ascribed to the supposed hopelessness of attempting to bend our modern manners to Ancient Discipline, than to any disparagement of the institutions themselves. Our institutions in many cases sleep, but are not dead ; nay, one has reason to hope that, although the many neglect them, a faithful few have ever been found, who have experienced and could testify the value of those which the world seems most entirely to neglect.
One might refer, in proof, to the practice of a daughter Church, the Episcopal Church of the United States. Sprung from our Church and supplied by her with Ministers, until the State was separated from us, they carried with them her principles, as they had been modified by the habits and feelings and practice of the period which had elapsed since her Reformation. She may be regarded then as representing the then state of opinions amongst us. Yet formerly re-considering the subject of the Church's Fasts, they omitted only the Vigils ; while they retained the weekly Friday Fast, those of Lent, the Ember and Rogation days, as days “on which the Church requires such a measure of abstinence, as is more especially suited to extraordinary acts and exercises of Devotion'."
Yet, although these grounds of Church authority appear to myself perfectly valid, and I doubt not that many others will feel their weight, as soon as they shall reflect upon them, the other argument, drawn from the practical wisdom and experience of the enactors of these regulations, seems to lie nearer to men's consciences. The argument lies in a narrow compass. Regular and stated Fasts formed a part of the Discipline by which, during almost the whole period since the Christian Church has been founded, all her real sons, in every climate, nation, and language, have subdued the flesh to the spirit, and brought both body and mind into a willing obedience to the Law of God. They thought this Discipline necessary as an expression and instrument of repentance, as a memorial of their Saviour, to " refrain their souls and keep them low," to teach them to “ trust in the Lord," and seek communion with Him. To this system our own Church during all her happier times adhered. The value of this remedy for sin has come to us attested by the experience, and sealed by the blood, of Martyrs; who having learnt thus to endure hardships, like good soldiers of Christ, at last resisted to the blood, striving against sin. Shall we, untried, pronounce that to be needless for ourselves, which the Glorious Company of the Apostles, the Goodly Fellowship of Prophets, the noble army of Martyrs, the Holy Church throughout the world, found needful?
| Book of Common Prayer, Philadelphia.
I can hardly anticipate other than one answer. Only let not any one be deterred by the irksomeness, or perplexities, or harassing doubts, which every one must find in resuming a neglected portion of duty. It were scarcely a discipline, if its practice brought with it an immediate reward ; and we have besides to pay the penalty of our sloth and diseased habits. Patiently to lack what flesh and blood doth desire, and by virtue to forbear what by nature we covet, this no man attaineth unto, but with labour and long practice'.” And if it be that blessed instrument of holiness, which they who have tried it assure us, it will not be without some struggle with our spiritual enemy, that we shall recover the ground which we have lost. Only let us persevere, not elated with the first petty victories over ourselves, which may be perhaps conceded to us in order to produce over-confidence and carelessness; nor dejected by the obstacles which a luxurious and scoffing age may oppose ; nor by the yet greater difficulties from within, in acquiring any uniform or consistent habit. Men, aided by God, have done the like; and for us also, His grace will be sufficient.
1 Hooker, I. c. OXFORD,
E. B. P. The Feast of St. Thomas.
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ON ARGUING CONCERNING THE APOSTOLICAL
Men are sometimes disappointed with the proofs offered in behalf of some important doctrines of our religion ; such especially as the necessity of Episcopal Ordination, in order to constitute a Minister of Christ. They consider these proofs to be not so strong as they expected, or as they think desirable. Now such persons should be asked, whether these arguments they speak of are in their estimation weak as a guide to their own practice, or weak in controversy with hardheaded and subtle disputants. Surely, as Bishop Butler has convincingly shown, the faintest probabilities are strong enough to determine our conduct in a matter of duty. If there be but a reasonable likelihood of our pleasing Christ more by keeping than by not keeping to the fellowship of the Apostolic Ministry, this of course ought to be enough to lead those, who think themselves moved to undertake the Sacred Office, to seek for a licence to do so from it.
It is necessary to keep this truth distinctly in view, because of the great temptation, that exists among us, to put it out of sight. I do not mean the temptation, which results from pride,-hardness of heart,-a profane disregard of the details and lesser commandments of the Divine Law,-and other such like bad principles of our nature, which are in the way of our honestly confessing it. Besides these, there is a still more subtle temptation to slight it, which will bear insisting on here, arising from an over-desire to convince others, or, in other words a desire to out-argue others, a fear of seeming inconclusive and confused in our own notions and arguments. Nothing, certainly, is more natural, when we hold a truth strongly, than to wish to persuade others to embrace it also. Nay, without reference to persuasion, nothing is more natural than
to be dissatisfied in all cases with our own convictions of a principle or opinion, nay suspicious of it, till we are able to set it down clearly in words. We know, that, in all matters of thought, to write down our meaning is one important means of clearing our minds. Till we do so, we often do not know what we really hold and what we do not hold. And a cautious and accurate reasoner, when he has succeeded in bringing the truth of any subject home to his mind, next begins to look round about the view he has adopted, to consider what others will say to it, and to try to make it unexceptionable. At least we are led thus to fortify our opinion, when it is actually attacked; and if we find we cannot recommend it to the judgment of the assailant, at any rate we endeavour to make him feel that it is to be respected. It is painful to be thought a weak reasoner, even though we are sure in our minds that we are not such.
Now, observe how these feelings will affect us, as regards such arguments as were alluded to above; viz. such as are open to exception, though they are sufficiently strong to determine our conduct. A friend, who differs from us asks for our reasons for our own view. We state them, and he sifts them. He observes, that our conclusions do not necessarily follow from our premises. E.g. to take the argument for the Apostolical Succession derived from the ordination of St. Paul and St. Barnabas (Acts xi. 2, 3), he will argue, that their ordination might have been an accidental rite, intended merely to commission them for their Missionary journey, which followed it, in Asia Minor; again, that St. Paul's direction to Timothy (1 Tim. v. 22), to “lay hands suddenly on no man,” may refer to confirmation, not ordination.
We should reply, (and most reasonably too,) that, considering the undeniable fact that ordination has ever been thought necessary in the Church for the Ministerial Commission, our interpretation is the most probable one, and therefore the safest to act upon; on which our friend will think awhile, then shake his head, and say, that "at all events this is an unsatisfactory mode of reasoning, that it does not convince him, that he is desirous of clearer light," &c.
Now what is the consequence of such a discussion as this on ourselves ? not to make us give up the doctrine, but to make us afraid of urging it. We grow lukewarm about it; and, with an appearance of judgment and caution, (as the world will call it,) confess that "to rest the claims of our Clergy on an Apostolical Descent is an unsafe and inexpedient line of argument; that it will not convince men, the evidence not being sufficient; that it is not a practical way of acting to insist upon it," &c.-whereas the utmost that need be admitted, is, that it is out of place to make it the subject of a speculative dispute, and to argue about it on that abstract logical platform which virtually excludes a reference to conduct and duty. And indeed, it would be no unwise caution to bear about us, wherever we go, that our first business, as Christians, is to address men as responsible servants of Christ, not as antagonists; and that it is but a secondary duty (though a duty) to "refute the gainsayers."
And, as on the one hand it continually happens, that those who are most skilled in debate are deficient in sound practical piety, so on the other it may be profitable to us to reflect, that doctrines, which we believe to be most true, and which are received as such by the most profound and enlarged intellects, and which rest upon the most irrefragable proofs, yet may be above our disputative powers, and can be treated by us only with reference to our conduct. And in this way, as in others, is fulfilled the saying of the Apostle, that “the preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness ; but unto us who are saved, it is the power of GoD ... Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world ? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world ? ... The foolishness of God is wiser than men ; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”