« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
of his parochial function, and his labors were so remarkably crowned with blessing and success, that as he himself was justly styled, the great "Reviver and restorer of primitive piety," so his parish was deservedly proposed, as the best model and pattern for the rest of its neighbors to copy after.
Nor was the Archdeacon or the Bishop, less vigilant than the Parish-Priest. His care and diligence increased as his power in the church was enlarged, and as he had before discharged the duty of a faithful pastor over his single fold, so, when his authority was extended to larger districts, he still pursued the same pious and laborious methods of advancing the honor and interest of religion, by watching over both clergy and laity, and giving them all necessary direction and assistance for the effectual performance of their respective duties.
Accordingly, he was no sooner advanced to the episcopal chair, but in a most pathetic and obliging letter to the clergy of his diocese, he recommended to them "the duty of catechising and instructing the people committed to their charge in the principles of the Christian religion; to the end they might know what they were to believe and do, in order to salvation ;" and told them," he thought it necessary to begin with that, without which whatever else he or they should do would turn to little or no account, as to the main end of the ministry." And to enable them to do this the more effectually, he sent them a plain and easy Exposition upon the Church Catechism; of which I need say nothing more and can say nothing greater, than that it was drawn up by himself in a method, which, in the opinion of so great a judge,
seemed, of all others, the most proper to instruct the people.
Thus endeavouring to make himself and others every day wiser and better, laboring to establish sound principles and settle good manners wherever he came, as it was the foundation which this holy man laid in these Articles and Resolutions, so we see it was the great work of his life to build upon it; as might easily be made appear from a faithful and particular relation of the several stages and passages of it, during the course of his ministry; the bare enumeration of which would swell this Preface into a book. That fair portrait will, I hope, be drawn by some abler pen,
In the mean time, there is yet another instance of his great concern and unwearied endeavours for the establishing of sound doctrine, which I must not omit the mention of; because it is a work of so much affinity with these Articles, and what the reader may, with great advantage, have recourse to for farther satisfaction upon these general heads of divinity, which he has here given us only in abridgment. It is his learned Exposition upon the Thirty-Nine Articles, which is promised in a short time to be committed to the press; and which is the more earnestly desired and expected, as being a performance which the church, at this time, so much wants, and which he, beyond others, was, in such an extraordinary manner, qualified for.
Such discourses as these, the one giving a true exposition of the doctrine of our church, the other endeavouring to establish it by an orthodox faith and an unspotted life, were never more seasonable, than in this age; when
the very being of the church is called in question, under a pretence of maintaining her rights; and the principles of Christianity are no longer secretly undermined, but openly attacked; when books are published against all revealed religion, and deism insults and triumphs barefaced, without restraint, without reproach; in a word, when we are arrived to that dissoluteness of manners, as well as principles, that persons of the highest quality and station are addressed to in print, as patrons of libertinism; and that which has in all ages been called and esteemed the greatest wisdom, is scoffed at by false wit; and Christianity, under the notion of enthusiasm, exposed to the contempt of the meanest capacities, and hooted out of the world by the very dregs of the people.
In so general an inundation of profaneness and licentiousness, Providence seemed indeed to have raised up this great and good man to stand in the gap and stem the tide against it; but where the torrent is so impetuous, and the forces that should unite in striving to divert it so weak and pusillanimous, there is more danger the very opposers should be borne down the stream, than there are hopes of making good the opposition. But, however the doctrine and discipline of our church may be misrepresented, exploded, and despised, and our holy religion become only a name, which is almost every where spoken against; this good Bishop will, nevertheless, have the honor, as he already enjoys the reward, not only of bearing testimony against the growing ill, but of having done all that he could-and who could do more than he ?-to restrain and subdue it.
It may perhaps be thought a bad omen to our church,
to have lost so able a champion, when she seems to stand so much in need of him. But, blessed be God, we have not altogether lost him. He has left us behind him, in these excellent papers, to say nothing of his sermons and other incomparable writings, such clear reasoning and convincing arguments for the grounding of our principles, and such useful rules and directions for the government of our conversation, that we may yet hope for a happy reformation in both, if we are not wanting to ourselves in the use and application of them.
Would the clergy, the younger sort especially, take this method upon their first admission into holy orders-and it ought to be no hard matter to persuade them to it, since it is the very end and design of their ministry-it could not fail, by the blessing of God, of producing very admirable effects. Their principles, thus prudently settled, would stand the shock, even of a fiery trial; and their resolutions, thus maturely formed, would undauntedly bear up against the most powerful temptations.
This, if any thing, would raise the dignity of the priesthood to its first institution; silence all the loud clamors, as well as malicious whispers, that, like echoes, are redoubled and reverberated upon them; and gain them such an interest and reputation among the people, and such an honor and authority in the discharge of their function, that from reverencing the person and commending the pattern, they would insensibly proceed to the imita tion of it; till, by degrees, the flock too, as well as the shepherd, would become wise to salvation, would devoutly sanctify the Lord God in their hearts; and not only
so, but be ready always to give an answer to every one that should ask them a reason of the hope that is in them.
And were both clergy and laity thus rightly principled and firmly resolved, the enemies of our Zion would have both less encouragement to attack and less power to hurt us; our national church might then despise all the wicked attempts and designs that are daily made and formed against her, and assume to herself that comfortable promise and assurance, that our Saviour himself has given, that even the gates of hell shall never prevail against her.
All that I have farther to say is, only to apologize for having said so much upon a subject that so little needs it, and to close the whole with my hearty prayers to the throne of grace, that this pious and excellent book may meet with that desired effect and success, which the author aimed at in the composing of it, and may be as useful to others, as it was to himself.