Изображения страниц

The remainder of the Sermon is addressed more pointedly to the Candidates for Ordination, and contains such excellent directions for the pious and prudent administration of the sacred office, that we cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of transcribing them at length.

"I have endeavoured to give you exalted notions of the ministerial office by shewing that we are, as St. Paul was, 'ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.' Whilst, however, for our encouragement, we love to trace a resemblance between his labours and our own, let us beware of placing ourselves on a level with the Apostle, either as regards our call to the ministry or our authority in the Church. There is enough of likeness between our office and that of the Apostle Paul to make us hope, that the same blessing which prospered his ministry among the Gentiles, will accompany our preaching of the word of life amongst a people who already confess the name of Christ ? and if we share, in some degree, the Apostle's labours, we may hope also to partake of the glory of an Apostle's reward. But the difference between our station and that of St. Paul is also great, and, if duly considered, it will keep us humble, and make us mindful, that an inspired Apostle in the exercise of plenary authority might be justified in doing many things which would be now incompatible with the duties of a subordinate minister of the Church. His call was miraculous; ours· has been through the ordinary influence of the Spirit blessing the use of human means. His commission was universal,' Lo I send thee to the Gentiles; ours is particular, and confined to a part of Christ's flock. He was answerable to no man, but only to the Lord; we both to the Lord and also to men, to those his servants who have the rule over us. It was his province to govern the Church; it is ours to submit to her laws, and to make a conscience of preferring her public judgment before our own.

"Let us then refrain from applying to ourselves and to our flocks, either in the letter or in the spirit, the verse succeeding the text: With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of by you or by man's judgment.' The Apostle had good grounds in his authority as an Apostle, and in his inspiration, to refuse the judgment of the Corinthian Church. Like him we should be able to appeal to the great Searcher of hearts, to testify the sincerity of our intentions and the uprightness of our conduct; but our authority being different from his, both in kind and degree, it would be presumptuous in us to despise the judgment which our people will form of us, or to contemn the advice and counsel of those who are the Governors of the Church. The congregation must not, however, direct us what or how we are to teach, nor must we suit our doctrine to their love of error or caprice. We must declare to them the whole counsel of God;' and if we so temper our exhortations to holiness with sound doctrine, as to shew that right belief is always accompanied by a sincere love of God and an obedient heart, we need not fear that the words we speak will be spoken in vain.' In matters of faith and doctrine, we must take our rule of preaching from the contents of the scriptures, and avail ourselves of the experience of those who have gone before us in the great and



holy calling of an Evangelist; but in matters of conduct, in things indifferent in themselves, and the propriety of which depends upon the opinion entertained by those committed to our care, we are bound on every occasion to consult the feelings of our people. It is our duty to be cautious lest our manner, our habits of life, and not least our amusements, prove a stumbling-block in their way, and hinder them from coming to the truth. We may at times, from mere thoughtlessness, appear to forget that we are men engaged in the serious work of saving souls from death; but the laity, however careless they may be of their own duty, never forget what we are. They know that as stewards of God's mysteries we ought always to show by our grave deportment, that the awful doctrines which we teach are deeply impressed on our own hearts. Our mirth must always be innocent-it must have in it no wanton levity, nothing that savours of irreverence towards God, or of disregard to the most perfect purity. Our amusements should be fitting men who are busily engaged in preaching the word of life, and who know how unequal they are to convince the sinner, and to resist temptation, unless fortified by daily study and continual prayer. He must be indeed an insincere and unworthy servant of Christ, who will not cheerfully sacrifice to the service of his Lord his indulgence in amusements which are wasteful of his time, which dissipate his thoughts, and bring also scandal upon himself and upon the sacred order to which hé belongs.



"Lastly, let me intreat you to strive earnestly, that the dedication of yourselves which you are now in the presence of the Church about to make, may be altogether perfect and sincere. What you are here to devote and consecrate to God, is not some few hours of your time, such as will suffice for the public ministrations of religion, but your life, your thoughts, your words, your actions. You promise to 'give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine,'-to meditate on the things of God, to give yourselves wholly to them,' to bend all your cares and studies this way *.' If you have any regard for your own souls, any compassion for the perishing souls of others, the character of your life from this day forward will be that of a perfect dedication to the service of God. And if in such a temper of mind you both undertake and persevere in the duties of your sacred office, you will find, by experience, what every faithful minister of Christ has found, that no manner of life on earth is so blessed as that of the laborious servant of God. You will exclaim, in the spirit of holy David, 'How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts !' One day in thy courts is better than a thousand.'- I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.' O Lord of Hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee."" P. 14.


[ocr errors]

We make no apology for the length of this extract; and we are persuaded that to the generality of our readers none will be necessary. We wish that it were read by every clergyman of the Church of England. It would convey a needful hint to many; it should give offence to none.

* Ordination Service.

Though the course of his argument, and the verse following his text, has led Mr. Hale to insist on the points of difference as well as of correspondence, between the station of St. Paul, and that of the subordinate ministers of the Church at this day; the example of the Apostle might even here be adduced to confirm his position relative to the deference due from the Clergy to the conscientious scruples of the laity;-the Apostle having in the 8th chapter of this same Epistle, given us a plain rule for our behaviour in things indifferent. "If" says he, "meat make my brother to offend"-i. e. if, even by an allowed use of my Christian liberty in this matter of meats offered to idols, I put an offence-a stumbling-block, in the way of those who are more, scrupulous than myself, and cause them to fall into sin, or desert or disgrace the faith-"I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend."

This principle may, no doubt, be carried too far. Were they to have regard to the scruples of all who choose to be scrupulous, the Clergy might renounce the world entirely, and deprive themselves of the means of being useful, which they now possess ; but (may we be permitted to say so?) the more frequent error is in not carrying it far enough. We could wish to see the Clergy more careful, than they always are, in the exercise of their liberty, especially in their amusements. The common excuse is, that the indulgence is innocent in itself.-It may be so; but it ceases to be so in a Clergyman, if it unfits him for the serious consideration of the duties of his calling, and exposes him to the censure of his parishioners. And must we not say, that such is the consequence of an ardent pursuit of field sports? Are not both mind and body disabled for whole days together by these things from attending to professional studies? Is it likely, that a man, who has devoted the mornings of two or three days of the week to the pleasures of the chase, will devote the evenings of those days to the study of Divinity, or the composition of sermons? Even if he wished to do so, he will seldom find his spirits sufficiently calm and settled for so holy a contemplation.. Hence is much of that ignorance and indifference, which Mr. H. so justly reprehends in the earlier part of his discourse.

But, though no such consequences followed, we yet are bound to have regard to the opinion of our people; who, as Mr. H. says," however they may neglect their own duties, never forget what we are.

[ocr errors]

But it is time to stay our hand, lest we superadd a sermon of our own to our review of Mr. Hale's.

[ocr errors]

The Difficulties of Infidelity. By George Stanley Faber, B.D. Rector of Long Newton. 8vo. 7s. pp. 292. Rivingtons. THIS work, as we are informed, "was written as a competitory treatise on the proposition "that there is more credulity in the disbelief of Christianity, than in the belief of it; a proposition which was adopted by the Church Union Society in the diocese of St. David's as the subject of their Essay, for the year 1823.' Like most prize essays it is very much overlaid in its matter, and treats very superficially on most of the points at issue between infidels and believers. There is something we think too epigrammatic in the subject of the thesis to allow of any standard work; for unless Butler and Paley have lived and written in vain, it would be much better and wiser to use the arguments of Deism as stepping-stones to Christianity, than to deny the arguments of historical Theology for the sake of exalting the superior value of the Christian Revelation.

Mr. Faber is an ingenious and learned writer, but he is too apt to push an argument beyond its just limits, and to rely on premises which are by no means sufficient to warrant his conclusions. We think we can discover many traces of this want of judgment in the work before us, and as this is a very inquisitive age, in which one false argument in behalf of Christianity is likely to do more harm than many sound arguments can do it service, we trust that he will not be offended, if we chiefly direct our attention to this subject.

In the first Section he considers "the difficulties attendant on Deistical Infidelity in regard to its possible grounds and reasons."-We confess that we could hardly comprehend what was meant by this statement, until we found, that it was designed to set before us the various objections of unbelievers against the probability of Revelation in general, together with Mr. Faber's answers to such objections, and we much fear, that few unbelievers would think they had been fairly dealt with. And as an illustration of what we mean-we beg leave to adduce his summary of the grounds of an infidel's unbelief."

"Although a revelation may perhaps in itself be possible, yet the fact of one is very highly improbable: because it is to the last degree unlikely, that an all-wise Creator should deem it necessary to give any instructions to a rational but inevitably ignorant being, whom he had created.

"The evidence, in favour of Christianity being a divine revelation, is insufficient; though no infidel has hitherto been able to confute the arguments, on which it rests.

"Insulated objections to a fact, notwithstanding they may have been repeatedly answered, are quite sufficient with a reasonable enquirer to set aside the very strongest unanswered evidence.

[ocr errors]

"As many pretended revelations are confessedly impostures, therefore all alleged revelations must clearly be impostures likewise.

"Lastly, as our unassisted reason is held by some philosophers to be a sufficient teacher, while others declare it to be wholly insufficient; a revelation from God is quite unnecessary: nor ought any claim of this character to be admitted, though it may rest on the very strongest unconfuted arguments.

"IV. Such are the principles, and such the systems, of the Christian and the infidel.

"Whether it argues a higher degree of credulity to receive, as a divine revelation, Christianity thus evidenced; or, in order to the rejection of it, contentedly to bow beneath such an extraordinary mass of contradictory difficulties, as the theory of the infidel is constrained to support; let the prudent inquirer judge and determine for himself." P. 19.


Now, we must say, that this is too much like setting up a merely to throw him down-and that it is too much of an exparte statement to produce any conviction on the mind of an unbeliever, who would immediately appeal from such an advocate as Mr. Faber. We think the same spirit may also be discerned in the next section, which treats of " the difficulties attendant on Deistical Infidelity in the abstract rejection of all revelations from God." Perhaps our readers may be startled when we say that we consider this section rather as an attack on Paley's Natural Theology-than as any defence of theChristian Revelation. Mr. Faber denies, that the deist can prove that the world was made by one God-or that he can demonstrate his justice, his mercy, or his goodness from the fame of the world. He dwells a good deal on the difference between probabilities and demonstrations, forgetting that no moral subjects allow of any demonstration, strictly so called. That a conscientious deist can demonstrate the existence and attributes of the Diety, so as to confute the atheist, has been shewn by Plato and Cicero in days of yore, and by Clarke and Cudworth in more modern times. We must confess that we do not like this method of establishing the evidences of Christianity, and that we think it betokens a very narrow and unphilosophical spirit to attempt to undo what Paley has so well accomplished in his Natural Theology.

In the third section, Mr. Faber considers "the difficulties attendant on Deistical Infidelity in regard to historical matter of fact." He grounds his reasoning first on the fact of the universal deluge. Even here, he has not sufficiently measured his language. It is not true, that all nations admit the fact that the tradition is prevalent amongst all nations; nor that this tradition is embodied in the mythology of every people. There is a general, not an universal testimony on this subject--and as such

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »