A SERMON, PREACHED IN THE PARISH CHURCH
OF ST. THOMAS, DUDLEY,
ON SUNDAY EVENING, JANUARY 3, 1841.
BY THE REV. T.F.H. BRIDGE, M.A.
PUBLISHED BY REQUEST.
RECTOR OF ST. JOHN'S, NEWFOUNDLAND,
AND EXAMINING CHAPLAIN TO THE LORD BISHOP OF THAT DIOCESE.
PRINTED FOR J.G.F. & J. RIVINGTON, ST. PAUL'S CHURCH YARD, AND WATERLOO PLACE, PALL MALL: T. DANKS, AND J.T. BOGLE, DUDLEY: AND H.C. LANGBRIDGE, BIRMINGHAM.
GILBERT AND RIVINGTON, PRINTERS, ST. JOHN'S SQUARE.
PUBLISHED BY REQUEST.
TO MY DEAR BRETHREN AND FRIENDS, THE VICAR, CURATES, AND PARISHIONERS OF DUDLEY, THIS SERMON, PUBLISHED AT THE REQUEST OF MANY OF THEM, IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED, WITH AN EARNEST PRAYER THAT IT MAY CONTRIBUTE TO THE PROMOTION OF THE GLORY OF GOD, THE CAUSE OF CATHOLIC TRUTH, AND THE SALVATION OF SOULS.
The following Sermon, prepared and preached without the slightest intention of its ever being printed, is now published only in deference to the opinions and in compliance with the wishes of many of those before whom it was the writer's privilege to deliver it; and it is sent forth by him, under a deep consciousness of its many imperfections, but in the humble hope that the great Head of the church may graciously deign to employ it as a mean of carrying out His purposes. This opportunity is embraced for informing those into whose hands this discourse may come, that the author's diocesan, the Lord Bishop of Newfoundland, is anxious to erect a cathedral, to serve also for the parish church, (the present one, not only affording insufficient accommodation, especially for the poor, but, from its having been built of WOOD more than forty years ago, being in a state of decay,) in the capital of that Colony; where the errors /vi/ combated in these pages are fearfully prevalent, and where the Romish bishop is about to build a so-called cathedral, an episcopal residence, nunnery, &c., on a vast scale, and at a cost, it is said, of 40,000 or 50,000 pounds: that the profits which may arise from the sale of this Sermon will be applied in aid of the Bishop of Newfoundland's object; and that all other contributions towards it, from those pious and benevolent persons who wish to strengthen the Church against her active and powerful enemy, will be thankfully received, and be transmitted by the Reverend the Vicar of Dudley, through the venerable "Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts," to the right reverend prelate who presides over the Ecclesiastical establishment in Newfoundland.
JER. vi. 16.
["Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls."]
God is the Author of true Religion: it emanated from Him, and all that is essential in, and to, it, has been the subject of revelation from Him. Fallen man never would have devised that holy thing which we call Religion; neither could he have formed any right ideas of its nature. His notions, even assuming that he could have originated any, of the relation existing between himself and his Maker, must have been very imperfect; and at the best, the homage he, uninstructed from above, would have paid to the Supreme Being, would have partaken so largely of his own corrupt and carnal views, that it would have been as unacceptable to the majesty, as unsuited to, and unworthy of the purity of, the Deity. /8/ Consequently, if the Almighty Lord of Heaven and earth desired to be served and worshipped by his rational creatures in a manner consistent with his honour and dignity, there was a necessity for a revelation on all which might relate to his worship and service, from Himself; and this necessity, as well from regard for his own glory, as from compassion to human infirmity, He graciously acknowledged by giving to man a Revelation, in which so much respecting his attributes and perfections is made known as the circumstances of the case require, and the spirit and mode of worship which will harmonize with those attributes and perfections are set forth. But, although this precious boon was conferred on man, it did not necessarily and of itself, nullify and destroy the degrading and perverting influence of his "evil imaginations." Had the standard which that Revelation sets up been adopted, and the rules which it lays down followed, all would have been right; but as its spiritual principles and requirements were so at variance with man's carnal nature, the tendency of that nature was to depart from them, and to impel its possessors, if not to renounce and reject them altogether, yet, by admixtures of their own, to accommodate them to their earthly and depraved tastes. That this is not mere speculation or supposition, but what has actually occurred, the history of religion proves, alas! too well. Into the Church of God, under the Jewish dispensation, such corruptions and perversions of the truth as revealed from /9/ Heaven were introduced, the declension from that truth was so wide, that, as we learn from the lips of our blessed Lord, "The commandment of God was made of none effect by the tradition" of men. -- (Matt. xv. 6.) Neither has it been otherwise under the present or Christian dispensation, notwithstanding the increased and purer light which has been poured upon the Church through the completed Volume of Inspiration. Previously to the era of the glorious Reformation, the whole, or nearly the whole, of Christendom was, as it were, spell-bound with the chains of error and superstition, and so thick and gross was the overlay of human traditions, "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men," and enforcing, as essential ordinances, their unscriptural and unauthorized inventions, that it was difficult, if not impossible, even to get a glance at the will and mind of the Spirit of God.
It was because of such corruptions and perversions that the Lord, by his prophet, addressed his Church, under the first dispensation, in the words of our text: "Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls;" and the state of the Church in our day, especially with reference to the arguments which are used, and the efforts which are being put forth in every place, again wholly to obscure and bury the Truth, is such, that this exhortation is not less necessary, or less appropriate now, than when Jeremiah delivered it to /10/ Israel. Indeed, those who make the present state and position of the professing Christian Church the subjects of their deep and anxious investigation, will go further than this, and not hesitate to express the conviction, that never was there a period at which it was more requisite for, more imperative upon, all who would "prove all things, and hold fast that which is good," to attend to the important words before us.
In prosecuting the search to which the Lord calls us by the prophet, the truth already asserted, that God is the alone author of all true religion, and that He has revealed every essential doctrine in his written Word, will teach us, that the only wise and safe course for us to adopt and pursue is to go at once to the fountain-head of religious truth, even God Himself, and on all disputed and controverted points, make our appeal to that Word. There only can we ascertain with certainty "the old paths;" that only, as both the primary and the paramount witness of what is true, as well as of what is old, will infallibly inform us what we are to reject as new; and how to distinguish between the truth of God, which is eternal and unalterable as Himself, and the "many inventions" of man, which are of a recent and modern date.
It is not less true of the source of error in the Christian Church, than it was of its origin in a section of the Jewish, that men "err, not knowing the Scriptures;" and the observations which I am about /11/ to make, may be considered as illustrations and proofs of that maxim. That God may graciously deign to bless them, as a mean of promoting his glory, and of confirming your scriptural and rational attachment to that pure and apostolic branch of the Church Catholic, to which it is our privilege to belong, is my earnest prayer, as it is the sole object I have in view in addressing you as I propose to do!
Now, it is, as I doubt not you are aware, the arrogant boast of the Romish Church, that she is the OLD Church; and the great weapon with which her emissaries are incessantly assailing us, is that we are a NEW Church, only dating our existence as a Church, from the time of Luther and Calvin, that is, about 300 years ago. I shall not stop to expose at any length, the fallacy and absurdity of this assertion, which is based upon a palpable misconception, and an intentional misrepresentation of our name as a Reformed Church. For what is the meaning of the word "Reformed?" Speaking of it grammatically and according to its etymology, it is a compounded word: that is, a word made up of two words taken from the Latin language, "re" and "formed," whereof the latter speaks for itself; the former, as in many other common and familiar English words, signifies "back;" so that the term "reformed," applied to anything whatsoever, would express two distinct ideas or facts concerning it, that that thing had been altered, and was restored to what it was before it was changed; -- applied to the Church, it declares, first, that the /12/ Church had been altered from what it originally was: secondly, that it has been moulded, or brought "back" to what it originally was. To say, therefore, that what is "reformed," is "new," is a self-evident contradiction in terms; to affirm that a Church, which through God's mercy and blessing, has been "reformed," is a NEW Church, argues an ignorance, which, if it be wilful, cannot be too strongly censured; if it be not, cannot be too deeply pitied, in any, who enter upon the arena of controversy, as the Romanists assert they do, to contend honestly, fairly, and conscientiously for "the truth." But, as I have said, I only touch briefly upon this line of argument; for it is not, I conceive, the best way of exculpating ourselves from the charge, (a grievous one indeed it would be, if it were well-founded) of our being a new Church. That accusation is to be got rid of most triumphantly and most effectually, by throwing it back upon those who bring it against us, and saying to the bishops, priests, and laity in communion with the Church of Rome, "YOU are the NEW, we are the old Church." [NOTE: Tertullian, in his treatises against Praxeas and Marcion, as quoted by Dr. Cardwell in his "History of Conferences in the Book of Common Prayer," p. 52, gives this rule for deciding what is true: "That is true which is first: that is false which is after: that is true which is first: that is first which is from the beginning: that is from the beginning which is from the Apostles." The original passages here referred to, are as follows: "Id verius, quod prius; id prius, quod ab initio; et ab initio, quod ab Apostolis." Tert. adv. Marcion. lib. iv. c. 5. tom. i. p. 253, ed. Paris, 1658./ "Quo peraeque adversus universas haeresias jam nunc praejudicatum sit, id esse verum, quodcunque primum; id esse adulterum, quodcunque posterius." Id. adv. Prax. c. ii. p. 421.].
That we may do so in perfect keeping with truth and justice, I shall immediately endeavour to show you. As to ourselves, we appeal to the written Word of God, as revealing all which is essential in our faith, and as permitting all that is distinctive in our observances as a Church. We find the twelve articles of our Creed in the Bible, and therefore we know each and all of them to be as old as the Bible. The /13/ two ordinances we administer as divinely-appointed Sacraments, we find in the Bible, were instituted as such by Christ Himself; nor is there one practice, one point of discipline, one ceremony of worship, enjoined by our Church, which is either opposed to the will of the great Head of the Church, as declared to us in the Bible, or at variance with the practice, discipline, and ceremonies of the Catholic Church, ere yet the flood of error had set in, and poisoned the pure streams of Divine revelation and apostolic example.
On these points, "hear the Church," speaking in her Articles of Faith. In Article vi. the Church thus expresses herself: -- "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation." In Article viii. she again insists upon this fundamental principle, resting the claims of our three creeds "thoroughly to be received and believed," on the ground of their admitting of being "proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture." And in Article xx. she delivers her opinion "of the authority of the Church" in these terms: -- "The Church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies, and authority in controversies of faith: and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God's word written: neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. /14/ Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet as it ought not to decree anything against the same; so besides the same ought it not to enforce anything to be believed for necessity of salvation." At the Reformation our pious forefathers threw aside all those tenets and observances, which were either not to be found in the Sacred Volume, or were repugnant to it, as well as to the practice of the Church in the days of her primitive purity, renouncing them as "novelties;" -- with what reason and justice will appear, if I enumerate a few of the tenets and observances then rejected, giving the date at which each was first introduced into the Church.
Our Reformers discarded the practice of invoking angels and saints, and the Blessed Virgin; and that practice did not generally prevail till between 700 and 800 years after Christ [NOTE: On this point, the reader is referred to the learned and conclusive work of the Rev. J.E. Tyler, "Primitive Christian worship;" wherein both the unscripturalness, and the novelty of the invocation of saints and angels, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, are incontestably proved.]. They rejected the practice of saying public prayers in Latin; and it is well ascertained that, "antecedently to the eighth century, we can discover no nation which had not the Liturgy and Holy Scriptures in its own language, or in one known to it." [NOTE: These words of Dr. Grier are quoted from a note in Dr. Hook's "Friendly and Seasonable Advice to the Roman Catholics of England;" an excellent little treatise, which has been put into my hands by a friend, whilst I have been preparing this discourse for the press, and which I would strongly recommend all who wish to see the truth fairly and simply stated, to peruse attentively.]. They rejected the practice of worshipping images and relics; and that practice, though first introduced towards the close of the fourth century, and successively approved by one council and condemned by another during the three or four following centuries, was not generally adopted before the Second Council of Nice, held A.D. 787. They denied the supremacy of the Pope; and that was not /15/ assigned to the Bishop of Rome until the year 605, when the tyrant Phocas conferred the title of "Universal Bishop" on Boniface III [NOTE: About A.D. 587, Pelagius II., then Bishop of Rome, severely rebuked John, the Patriarch of Constantinople, for endeavouring "to get the name of a universal or ecumenical bishop or patriarch;" and Gregory the Great, the successor of Pelagius, disowned the title "as unfit for him or any other," calling it, "Stultum, frivolum, superbum atque pompaticum, NOVUM, profanum, pestiferum, superstitiosum, perversum, scelestum, nefandum vocabulum." Vid. Greg. Epist. ad Mauricium Augustum, Anastasium Episc. Antioch., Johannem, et Sabinianum diaconum./ "Ego autem fidenter dico quia quisquis se universalem sacerdotum vocat, vel vocari desiderat, in elatione sua Antichristum praecurrit, quia superbiendo se caeteris praeponit." Greg. ad Maur. Aug. 7. ep. 33.]. They removed the restrictions which forbade the clergy to marry; and celibacy, though in high esteem in preceding ages, was not imperatively and universally imposed upon the clergy, until the pontificate of Gregory the Seventh, A.D. 1074. They discarded the practice of auricular confession, as well as the doctrine of transubstantiation; and the observance of the former, and the belief of the latter, were not declared to be necessary before the fourth Lateran Council, held A.D. 1215 [NOTE: POPE Gaius denies that the righteousness of the saints avails anything to our pardon or justification. POPE Gelasius denies transubstantiation. POPE Gregory I. determines that it is lawful for priests to marry; and affirms that the first book of the Maccabees is not canonical. (See Hook's Friendly and Seasonable Advice, pp. 29-31. ed. 4.) Set side by side with the decrees and opinions of these heads of the Romish Church, the decisions of subsequent popes and councils, and what becomes of her pretended infallibility?]. They restored to the laity the cup in the Lord's Supper; and that mutilation of the ordinance was first enjoined by the Council of Constance, A.D. 1414. They rejected the fable of purgatory, and the so-called sacraments of confirmation, of penance, matrimony, orders, and extreme unction; and each of these points was for the first time declared to be an article of faith, by the authority of Pope Eugenius IV. at the Council of Florence, A.D. 1439. And let it be remembered, that although these, and other tenets and observances, too numerous to be mentioned within the compass of a single discourse, which were also rejected by our reformers, are to be found in the Church from the several dates we have assigned to them, and were, from time to time, sanctioned by individual Popes, and various Councils, -- still the distinctive principles and practices of Romanism did not receive as a whole the approval of the Romish Church /16/ until the sessions of the Council of Trent (which was not convened till after the Reformation had commenced,) and the publication of the Creed of Pius IV. which took place so recently as the year 1564 [NOTE: The most valuable information on the points of difference between the Churches of England and Rome, is to be found in a work of Bishop Beveridge's, published last year at the Clarendon Press, and entitled "Ecclesia Anglicana Ecclesia Catholica; or the Doctrine of the Church of England consonant to Scripture, Reason, and Fathers; in a discourse upon the Thirty-nine Articles, &c." This learned prelate, in his exposition of Article xxii., adduces against the worshipping of saints, &c.; the testimony of Athanasius Alex. (A.D. 325.), and the Council of Frankfort (Conc. Francofordiense Episcoporum 300.), A.D. 794: against the veneration of relics, that of Gregory Nazianzen, A.D. 380: against the worshipping of images, that of Lactantius Formianus, A.D. 380: of the council held at Constantinople, A.D. 814, and that at Paris, A.D. 824: against purgatory, that of Prosper Episc. Regiensis, A.D. 440: against pardons, &c., that of Euthymius Zigabenus, A.D. 1080./ It should be observed, that I have mentioned only the latest testimonies which are given by the bishop.].
You see, then, my brethren, how far facts support the Romanist's boast, that his Church is the old one; -- how far they justify the charges which he brings against us, that we are a new Church. And here I would pause a moment, to entreat you all to offer up your prayers to God, that He will be pleased to strengthen your memories to retain what you have heard. I am well aware, from a long residence in a country where Popery [NOTE: The word "Popery" is not used as a term of reproach, but from a deliberate and conscientious conviction that it is the justest and most correct to be predicated of the discriminating doctrines and practices of the Church of Rome. For have not such doctrines and practices been successively imposed on the belief and observance of Romanists, either by the sole authority of POPES, or by that of councils convened and presided over by POPES or their legates? And do they not COLLECTIVELY rest for their sanction on the twelve NEW articles added to the Nicene Creed by the Creed of POPE Pius IV?] is as bold as she is untiring in her efforts to make proselytes, that there is nothing on which the Romanist lays so much stress as on the pretended antiquity of HIS religion and the alleged novelty of OURS; and I fear that there is so much ignorance or so much indifference among Protestants on the subject, that he too often does so successfully. However, once again have you been cautioned against the danger which threatens you, and furnished with the means of escaping from it. We are free; should any of you be unhappily entangled in the yoke of bondage, which the Church has been mercifully enabled to throw off, the error will be yours, and so will the guilt!
And bear in mind, that you will not have done all which is required of you, when you have satisfied your own minds, as to which faith, that professed by the Church of England, or that professed by the /17/ Church of Rome, has the strongest claims on your belief and adherence, because of its superior antiquity, and consequent closer conformity with the Word of God and the primitive practice of the Church Catholic. There is not one among you who does not exercise some influence in the station in which the providence of God has placed him, and who may not, sometimes, be in a situation to stand up for the faith taught and professed by the Reformed or Protestant Church; certainly, those of you who are parents fall within this supposition; and, therefore, I would say to every father and mother here, impress it upon your children, from their earliest years, as a fact resting upon the twofold and harmonious testimony of the Bible and ecclesiastical history, that the religion we profess, in common with our fellow-Christians of other Reformed Episcopal Churches, is "the Old Religion," -- the faith we hold, "the faith once delivered to the saints;" and, whilst you impress this upon them, forget not to remind them continually, that, to be members of such a communion is a blessing, which, whether it be regarded in its bearing upon our independence as citizens, or our safety as Christians, calls for from them, as it does from you, the sincerest and devoutest expressions of thankfulness to Him, who, both in providence and in grace, "divideth to every man severally as he wills;" and through whose mercy and goodness alone, "the lines have fallen unto you in such pleasant places."
/18/ Neither are masters and mistresses exempt from this obligation! Do ye, who have servants and others dependent upon you, do ye impress it upon them, that our Faith is the Truth of God's Word -- the Faith of the universal Church in the days of her apostolic and pristine purity! Yea! Whom may we except from this responsibility? Let friend to friend, -- let neighbour to neighbour, -- let each to each affirm constantly, that our Religion is the Religion which God the Father has revealed, which God the Son, "manifest in the flesh," preached, -- which God the Holy Spirit teaches; which apostles proclaimed -- martyrs died for -- saints, now before the throne, believed in; and oh! That it may be so echoed and re-echoed throughout the length and breadth of the empire, that Britain, in her home and her foreign possessions, may ring with the undoubted Truth, that "Popery is the novelty -- Protestantism the old Religion."
But I must do what lieth in me to guard this subject, or rather your privileges, from abuse. I have endeavoured to prove to you, that you are, indeed, members of a branch of that Church which is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone." It now becomes my duty to warn you of the common and dangerous error of trusting to the mere naked circumstance of enjoying such membership. The tenor of my remarks may naturally give rise to the question, -- "What is the advantage of our /19/ position?" and I would, therefore, reply, -- "It may be great; it may be none, or worse than none." If we walk in the light with which we are favoured, "looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith," as our only hope, and following Him, who "fulfilled all righteousness," as our pattern and exemplar, not merely in the good old path of a Scriptural creed, but also in the good old path of evangelical obedience, -- the path trodden by patriarchs, apostles, martyrs, and saints, -- simply relying on the merits of His sacrifice, who is "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world;" and the efficacy of His intercession, who is the "One Mediator between God and men;" then our course will lead us at the last to the realms of infinite and eternal bliss. But, on the other hand, if, with all the light which shines around us, we walk not according to it; if, with all our privileges, we live not up to them; if, with a Scriptural creed upon our lips, we exhibit in our daily lives and conversation an unscriptural practice, then, as has been forcibly and eloquently observed, "the privilege of instruction in the Lord's will incurs the penalty of MANY stripes, if that will be not obeyed. The privilege of Christian ordinances transfers" us "from the more tolerable condition of Tyre and Sidon into the more intolerable responsibility of Chorazin and Bethsaida." "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes." Matt. xi. 21.
/20/ As, under the Mosaic dispensation, it was true of professing members of "the Church of the living God," that "all were not Israel who were of Israel," so it is true now, that all its professing members are not genuine members of that justified and mystical body of which the Lord Jesus Christ is the Head and the Saviour. The baptized are by no means commensurate with the saved. The compass of the visible Church is of wider extent than that of the invisible, -- that "general assembly and Church of the first-born, which are written in heaven;" and it is very possible to belong to the one, and yet to have no inheritance with the other. The natural pride of man rebels, indeed, against such a distinction, but it is perfectly in accordance with Scripture, and the ministers of the Gospel only follow the example of those inspired men, who have preceded them in their sacred work and office, in making it, and in cautioning their hearers against trusting to mere outward and formal communion with the Church, as though that were necessarily, and in itself, salvation! "He is not a Jew," writes St. Paul, Rom. ii. 28, 29, "who is one outwardly;" or, as the passage, with a slight and legitimate change, may be quoted in corroboration of our argument, "He is not a" Christian, "who is one outwardly; neither is that" baptism "which is outward in the flesh, but he is a" Christian "who is one inwardly; and" baptism "is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." And again, to illustrate /21/ this important point: when ready to perish from thirst, I may reach the bank of some well-supplied and refreshing stream; but, if I take not of its waters, I perish still; the mere circumstance of my being by the river's side, will not preserve me; or, when sick and diseased, I may be in a hospital, where every medicine would be ordered, and every remedy recommended, which human skill and experience could prescribe for my case; but the mere circumstance of my being in that favourable position would not cure me, if I refused to use and apply the means. Similarly, the mere circumstance of my being within the pale of the Church, though every provision is there made for the healing of my soul, diseased with sin, and for its refreshment during my pilgrimage through this weary wilderness, is not in, and of, itself equivalent to salvation.
In proof of this, if you will turn to 2 Cor. xiii. 5, you will find this exhortation addressed by the Apostle to the members of the Christian Church in that city: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith!" "What!" some might exclaim, "had not all those to whom St. Paul was writing been baptized? Were they not all, by profession and external communion, members of the Church?" Yes! But manifestly and without controversy, not all thereby, NECESSARILY, "fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;" -- else the exhortation would have been needless.
To you, therefore, beloved brethren, though you /22/ have been all admitted into the visible fold of the good Shepherd, by the sacrament of baptism; and though many of you, having also been partakers of the sacrament of Christ's body and blood, are in full outward communion with his Church, I would speak in the same language of faithful and affectionate admonition, -- "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith." Ye are OF the faith, but are ye IN the faith? What -- that I may assist you to answer the momentous inquiry -- what is your creed on that fundamental article of a Christian's belief, -- the mode of the sinner's justification before God? Is Christ your "all in all?" Are you looking for and seeking eternal life, as the gift of God, only through faith in the merits of Christ's righteousness and death? Have you been divinely convinced of your own sinfulness and unworthiness, so that you are daily offering to the Lord the sacrifice which He will not despise -- a broken and a contrite heart? Have you been renewed in the spirit of your minds, so that you "have put off, as concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and have put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness?" Be assured, that this is the only spiritual and moral condition which can render the fact of your being in the old path as regards Church-membership available to the salvation of your souls! I beseech you, trust not to anything else -- anything less than this! I remember once having, in the /23/ discharge of my ministerial duties, to reprove and remonstrate with a parishioner, who was addicted to excessive drinking. The habit he did not deny; but, with awful levity, and as awful ignorance of the nature of sin, as being exceeding hateful to God and ruinous to the soul, he resisted my appeal and quieted his conscience, by saying: "Well, sir, never mind! I do drink, but still all is right; I am a member of the true Protestant Church." Now, I know not whether any here are given up to this vice; yet there may be some who are encouraging themselves in other habitual sins, by such reasoning as this, vainly trusting to their Churchmanship, though they are living in the constant violation of every precept which the Church, echoing the voice of her Founder and Head, inculcates. I would ask, therefore, is this Protestantism? No! It is the rankest Popery, -- a devilish device of the old serpent, who still whispers into the ear of his victims, "Ye shall not surely die," and so beguiles men to their eternal perdition! Brethren! Beware of all such wiles of the devil! "Be not deceived: God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap; for he that soweth to his flesh," -- follows his carnal desires, makes provision to fulfil his lusts, and works all uncleanness with greediness, -- "shall of the flesh reap corruption: but he that soweth to the Spirit," -- obeys the godly motions, and brings forth the fruit of the Spirit, -- "shall of the Spirit reap life /24/ everlasting." -- Gal. vi. 7, 8. "Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein," even in the good old way of holiness, "and ye shall find rest for your souls," -- present rest in the testimony of a conscience void of offence towards God and men, and hereafter the "rest which remaineth for the people of God."
And now to conclude: deeply regretting, as I am sure you all do, that the impaired health of your affectionate and faithful pastor is the cause of my standing before you tonight, I cannot but feel it a great privilege to have been permitted to lift up my voice, however feebly, in the service and for the cause of my heavenly Master. Conscious, indeed, I am, -- painfully conscious, -- of manifold imperfections in my advocacy of it; and, therefore, I would entreat you, brethren, to join your prayers with mine, that God will mercifully pardon them; while, again, I would ask you to unite with me in supplication for yourselves, that the Word which has been spoken to you, may not have been spoken in vain! Most probably my voice is now being heard within this sanctuary for the last time. In all separations, in this uncertain and transitory world, there is something painful and solemn; but there is, I conceive, a peculiar solemnity in the separation of a minister of God from those to whom he has been allowed to dispense the Word of Life, however brief their mutual acquaintance -- however /25/ slight their connection. Soon, if I am graciously spared, many a mile of land and sea will interpose between us; and, oh! Overwhelming thought, the next time we shall behold each other's face, will be before the judgment-seat of Christ, where we must give account of our respective stewardships, I as preacher -- you as hearers, of the Word! Suffer, then, yet a few moments, the word of exhortation, according to the two great classes, which, as they exist in the collective Church, may be found in this congregation!
To you, my Christian friends, who, through grace, desire to "adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour in all things," I would address the language of the apostle: "Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." Walk circumspectly, and walk consistently, as Christians and as Churchmen! Stray not, -- no! Not for once, -- stray not into the forbidden folds of Popery or Dissent! It may, perhaps, be thought that I unnecessarily introduce such a caution when speaking to the class to whom I am now more particularly addressing myself; but I cannot forget that we live in a day of liberalism, and liberalism makes it fashionable and charitable to draw no distinctions in religion; and if not its fashion, yet its charity, may delude you! Not that I would have you offend against charity, rightly so called! No! I would urge its exercise upon you, as not less a Christian privilege, than a Christian duty. Pity in the spirit, and pray for in the language of the Church, all who dissent /26/ from us, that "all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth," and being, "made one fold under one Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites!" Still have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; sanction not at any time by your presence either that worship which, as Churchmen, you must believe to be unauthorized, or that, which, if you will "hear the Church," you must admit to be vain, unprofitable, and idolatrous! -- in a word, meditate often on the wholesome instruction which was delivered to you by your faithful pastor on the first day of the new year; reflect often on your presence then in this House of Prayer, and at the Table of your Lord, where you offered yourselves, bodies and souls, to Him, as a reasonable sacrifice; and strive, in that strength which is freely promised to us, and which is made perfect in our weakness, to walk worthy of our high calling in Christ Jesus; so shall you glorify your God by your good works; -- so shall you benefit man by doing good in your generation; -- so shall you find rest for your souls; -- so, when you are summoned hence, you may lift up to Heaven the eye of hope and confidence, and say, with the devout and happy Simeon of old, "Lord! Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word!"
Finally, one word to those, who are yet in their sins, "Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God," careless about religion, and indifferent to the rest which /27/ the Lord promises to all who honour and serve Him! My fellow-sinners! "The time is short!" One year has just closed, -- you have entered upon another! But who can say that he will see its end? Yea! Who, though he be the youngest and the healthiest here, can say but that this very night there may be sounded in his ears -- "Thy soul is required of thee?" O! Be wise, while yet there is space, while yet the Lord waiteth to be gracious, and the opportunity of turning to Him is yet within your reach! Else you perish, and perish by your own wilfulness. I would remind you of the free and gracious promise of God, which was so feelingly and so earnestly pressed upon your acceptance this morning: "So God loved the world that He gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." I would as earnestly beseech you to seek for grace to embrace that offer of mercy; and with all these things before you, I would solemnly ask you, What more could the God of mercy have done for you than He has done? What more the Church? What more your stated pastors? Rising early and late, I know they have, with all affection invited, with all faithfulness warned you. They then are free, -- they may wash their hands of your ruin; the blood of your lost souls, if they be lost, will be upon your own heads!
Brethren, I have done! "I commend you all to God and the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance among all them which /28/ are sanctified;" and I earnestly pray, that, if we meet not again here, our temporary connection within the walls of this earthly temple may be the forerunner of our eternal re-union in the bright and blissful courts of Heaven.
(E-text furnished by Dr. Hans Rollmann; typed by Ms. Heather Russell)