« VorigeDoorgaan »
career, she was surrounded and defended by whatever was simple in piety, solid in learning, and elevated in genius,-that she has struck her roots deep throughout the good and sound soil of the English mind,—that her simplicity and honesty extend through all the system of English institutions and English manners,—and that the powerful impression of her calm wisdom upon the habits of the lowest and least instructed of her people, has long stood in their unlettered minds in the room of education, and has rendered them invulnerable for many an age, (and may God grant it may continue so to render them amidst the spreading lights of knowledge!) to all the perversions and sophistries of wandering and infidel opinion! Where is there a Church, whose ritual and services enter so profoundly into the hearts of her children, or are so intimately interwoven with all their sentiments of devotion? Where are the prayers which are so closely intermingled in the Christian soul with the words of the Son of God himself ? And in what offices of Religion shall we find so maternal and watchful an eye upon all the character and fortunes of human life, from the first hour in which the waters of Baptism are
poured upon the infant head, through the simple but perfect elements of Christian instruction, the salutary rites of a mature Faith, and the pure but perishing bonds of earthly union, to that last hour when dust returns to dust, and the soul is resigned, hopefully, to its Saviour and its God? And where is the Church, which, wherever its children roam in their earthly pilgrimage, is looked back upon with so filial an eye? Amidst the imposing splendours of foreign superstition, and amidst the severer and more naked forms of worship among ourselves, it is still to her primitive services that they turn, and it is still around the decencies of her altar that they kneel; and with what joy, do we suppose, was her domestic presence hailed on those Indian shores, when she advanced, with composed and maternal mien, to gather her own scattered children under her wings, ere she yet went forth in the panoply of the Faith, to subdue the Eastern world to the Gospel of her Lord !
II. But now, my brethren, she has gone forth, conquering, and to conquer. An open door has been set before her; and what is the ani
mating prospect which, in the second place, is derived from these words of the text, when we view them in connection with that character of unassuming Faith and obedience, which it previously led us to contemplate ? I know thy works,” says the Spirit to the Angel of the Church of Philadelphia,—“ behold I have set before thee an open door.” It is because of thy works ; because of the soundness of thy Faith, and the singleness of thy heart; because thou hast ever “ kept my word, and hast not denied my name;" because thou hast never boasted of thy strength, but even esteemed it to be less than it is therefore it is that the door is now set open before thee,
“ and no man can shut it.”—The Church of England has, not unfrequently, been accused of a defective zeal, and of remissness in furthering the more extensive spiritual interests of mankind; nor am I prepared to say, that there are no carthly elements in her frame, and that her cautious hesitation may not at times be carried to a cold and timid extreme; yet the dilatoriness so commonly imputed to her proceedings, in whatever wears the, form of innovation, accompanied as it is, with soundness of Faith and heart, seems by no means
unsuitable to the gradual course of Divine Providence in the dispensation of every good and perfect gift. She may be slow in perceiving the opening of the door, while other churches and other sects may be eagerly rushing into the fold, even before the door is opened. But this I may say, that when she does enter in, it is with a Diviner power, and a more collected majesty ; and all her history shows, that, when once her eye is kindled with the distinct apprehension of Truth and of Duty, her zeal, amid all its temperance, is unconquerable in its firm
She was slow in her own Reformation ; she lingered with an affectionate eye around every form or tenet which education and antiquity had rendered holy ; but when she had once steadily entered into the full stream of that great work of Purification --what Church, let me ask, can show a more fixed perseverance, or where shall we find arrayed a more“ noble army of martyrs ?” Where, too, shall we find such martyrs, men who had been “ clothed in soft raiment,” and had sate" in kings' houses,”- but who, when they were called to suffer in the sacred cause of truth, and of their Lord, hesitated not to embrace the stake and the faggot, and even with a noble indignation, could hold out the right hand to be first consumed, which in one moment of “ little strength,” had feebly denied His Name !
When the great work was completed,—when the foundation of the Church was firmly cemented with pure and holy blood, —was there any want of zeal in those numerous labourers who now came forward to rear or defend its fabric ? Was there any such want in those meek and judicious Hands which traced the steady lines of its majestic Polity,—in those comprehensive Minds which, trained in the schools of strict demonstration, found yet the only true scope for their full and generous conceptions in the grand moral field of Christian theology,—in those Spirits of exalted imagination, which, trembling as they soared, shook from their healing wings the dews of devotion, and hovered over the awakening soul with the hallowed stillness of the mystic Dove descending upon the waters of Baptism,*-in all that host of learned Inquirers, who brought the vast and varied stores of their knowledge to bear upon the Evidences and Pu
* Hooker, Barrow, Jeremy Taylor, &c.