Thine house hath eaten me up." Since therefore no man can equal the sense of veneration here expressed, for God's "House of Prayer," therefore no one can exceed on this subject; the case is in some respects analogous to an adoration of our LORD'S Divinity when seen in the flesh. And the effect and cause become mutually implicated in bearing on the moral character: the most holy men will most reverence the place of God's presence, and he who more values the place of God's presence will become the most holy. Now this secret of God is so entirely disclosed by Him, after this manner of reserve, that the difference of regard which men feel for Churches is as great as the difference of estimation in which our LORD was regarded by the beloved disciple or by the traitor Judas, for both of them were in His presence, but one only derived benefit from it. For instance, David speaks of the temple of GOD with words of longing desire, as great as could be expressed for any conceivable blessing, as being the place of God's presence; and yet many of us doubtless feel nothing of the kind. These gifts, therefore, the greatest that heart of man can devise, are in secret; it is the kingdom of heaven upon earth, but seen only by certain persons; a treasure hid, "the pure in heart seeing GOD" under those veils of all of which it may be said, as of our LORD's teaching, "he that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

3. Sacraments, Church Ordinances and practices.

In the next place, with respect to the Holy Sacraments, it is in these, and by these chiefly, that the Church of all ages has held the Doctrine of the Atonement after a certain manner of reserve; which sense of things this modern system has relinquished, and in consequence has put forward this doctrine to the people in a manner unknown to former ages. The Church has ever thus held the doctrine in its substance, in its fulness, in its life-giving power and reality for which these moderns have substituted what is human;-the declaration of it by eloquence of speech, the reception of it in excitement of feeling. The Church considers it in the Sacraments as a power of substantial and Divine efficacy, conferring spiritual gifts and privileges; this system, as

nominal and external to ourselves. In the Sacraments the doctrine is most intimately and closely blended with the life and conduct of man; in this system, it is in great measure separated from it. For instance, all ancient Baptismal Services, as well as that of our own Church, have most closely connected with the doctrine of the Atonement the consideration of our being crucified with CHRIST, being dead with CHRIST, being buried with CHRIST, and the consequent necessity of our mortifying our earthly members in this respect they exemplify, in a wonderful manner, all that we have stated respecting this doctrine in the Gospels, and the Epistles of St. Paul, wherein our own cross, the world being crucified to us, and we to the world,—is mysteriously connected with that of CHRIST. The Sacraments realize the doctrine in a way that no human system can do: for we believe that a Divine Power, and the blessings of the Atonement especially, are, after some transcendental manner, present in those Sacraments, according to the express promise of our LORD. And it is very obvious that our Communion Service does support the same principle in like manner with the Baptismal Offices; for it throughout implies penitence, faith, and charity, as indispensable on the part of man; and "the Body and the Blood of CHRIST, verily and indeed taken and received," as the highest of gifts on the part of GOD. And these it considers as the spiritual life of Christians. And as the very essence of a Church does depend on a due dispensation of the blessed Sacraments, so, where a sense of these is impaired, or not realized by faith, the doctrine of the Atonement itself is put forth to mankind, as if the preaching of this constituted all that was life-giving in the Church. Now here it is very evident at once that the great difference between these two systems consists in this, that one holds the doctrine secretly as it were, and in reserve; the other in a public and popular manner; one in connexion with all other doctrines of Scripture, the other as separated from them. It is always the case with the Church, that it has considered the Sacraments as certain veils of the Divine presence, being not only the signs and tokens, but vehicles, and conveyances, if we may so speak, of Divine gifts. This is obvious, not only from the Discipline of the secret,

but from usual modes of speaking concerning them. Thus, St. Augustine (Ps. xviii. v. 11) on the words, "He laid in the darkness His secret place," applies this to GOD having laid His secret place "in the obscurity of the Sacrament, and secret hope in the heart of believers ;" "where He Himself might be hid, and desert them not, even in this darkness, where we walk as yet by faith, not by sight." (Tom. iv. 107.)

The same may be shown with respect to the powers of Priestly Absolution, and the gifts conferred thereby. It is not required for our purpose to show the reality of that power, and the magnitude of those gifts which are thus dispensed. But a little consideration will show, that if the Church of all ages is right in exercising these privileges, the subject is one entirely of this reserved and mystical character. Its blessings are received in secret, according to faith: they are such as the world cannot behold, and cannot receive. The subject is one so profound and mysterious, that it hardly admits of being put forward in a popular way, and doubtless more injury than benefit would be done to religion by doing so inconsiderately. And yet a faithful Christian may look through the actions and offices of the Church, to that which is beyond human senses, to CHRIST absolving, CHRIST baptizing, CHRIST interceding, CHRIST pronouncing benediction; and may thus by an habitual sense of Absolution declared, come to the state of that penitent, who "loved much, because she had much forgiven." The same may be said with respect to the Benediction: no words and arguments, no learned proofs nor eloquent demonstration, of the blessing that is through these channels conveyed, render us of themselves capable of receiving them; but it is a secret which God Himself dispenses as men are found worthy. For when our SAVIOUR instructed His disciples to pronounce the blessing of peace beyond understanding, He annexed to it," that if the Son of peace be there, His peace should rest upon that house, if not, it should return to them again." And that His peace was mysteriously powerful to convey what it expressed, and not like mere human words of salutation, nor in a manner capable of being understood by the world, our LORD seems to have signified in that expression, "Peace be unto you,

My peace I give, not as the world giveth, give I unto you." And that some blessing would be in reality attached to the authoritative declaration, might be inferred from the promise, attached to the Levitical Benediction, which GoD vouchsafed should be accompanied by His own blessing. To the heart of faith, therefore, the Priestly pronunciation of blessing may be productive of greater spiritual benefit than the most moving appeals of human eloquence as GoD is in secret, and His Angels that minister to us, and all His paths in the deep waters, so all His instruments of benefiting our souls seem to partake of this character of Reserve; ways that appear foolishness to the world, for its effects are out of sight, but seen and fully acknowledged by those who are brought to the sense of them, for "wisdom is justified of her own children."

The like may be shown in many other points, that "the weapons of our warfare being not carnal," partake of this secret character, in opposition to that system which we condemn. It is the custom of that system to recommend persons to seek those ministers which are supposed edifying; but the Church considers all edification to be of GOD, and by His own means. If they are found unworthy or inadequate, the world recommends us to attach ourselves to others; the Church, by her Ember Weeks, supplies a remedy, but entirely of a secret character. For as our LORD has said, when He beheld the people as sheep without a shepherd, "Pray ye the LORD of the harvest, that he may send more labourers into his harvest ;" therefore, it is clear that the remedy for the unworthiness or scantiness of ministers depends on the prayers of the people. Here again the Church supplies us with a quiet rule of Reserve: the opposite to that which this system extensively pursues.

There is another point which may be mentioned to show the way in the which the Church secretly realizes the doctrines of Scripture, which doctrines the world will not allow. The modern scheme is very careful to separate the cross of Christians from the Cross of CHRIST, which the Scriptures, we think, in mysterious and manifold ways, unite, in the same way that type and prophecy often combine allusions to CHRIST and to His members. Now consider the Friday fast with respect to this subject. The Church

has always set apart this day for meditation on CHRIST's death and passion. But how is it to be observed? first of all it is a matter of obedience; in the next place the Church requires fasting on this day, both of which are, in fact, the bearing of our own cross. The observance of this is in the first place a matter of obedience, and to obey is to bear our Cross: in the next place, the Church requires fasting on this day, and to fast is of itself to bear our own Cross. To take, therefore, the simple matter of fact, in this case fasting and obedience is what would be called bearing our own cross: and the effect of this is to dispose the heart to prayer, and to heavenly affections, and a sense of GOD'S mercy in CHRIST; thus, as Bishop Wilson observes, "the mystery of the cross is learned under the cross." Nor can this day be rightly-observed excepting in such a manner as leads to these affections. Something of the same kind may be said respecting the LORD's day, on which the Ancient Church used to observe the posture of standing in prayer, to express that we are risen together with CHRIST. To realize the Christian Sunday is a matter of faith, and requires a knowledge of the "power of the Resurrection:" to insist on the observance of the Jewish Sabbath is to insist on an external duty, and may be popularly expedient; it comes more among things of sight; the former is received by faith in the invisible sanctions of long Tradition; the latter insisted on by express legal sanction.

Again, the mode in which the Church teaches us to regard Holy Scripture is one of Reserve. Let us take, for instance, the use of Psalms in daily public worship; by this circumstance of thus using them, it is evident she considers them as a Christian manual of devotion. And yet modern systems, which disparage or separate from the Church, consider them as very unfit for such a purpose. The Church uses them entirely upon a principle of reserve: for of course, for a Christian to be repeating expressions concerning war, "the shield, the sword, and the battle," or concerning legal sacrifices, "offering bullocks and goats," or of "the hill of Sion," and the mountains that surrounded Jerusalem; or of Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan; or of Edom and Babylon being laid even with the ground: all these things are of course (as Dr. Watts has stated them to be)

« VorigeDoorgaan »