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to realize the substance of great Christian truths which have been forgotten) yet surely we must see that this religious system has about it something which falls in with, and encourages, nay, assumes its own character and complexion from, that spirit of disobedience and lawlessness, which is to prevail in the last days.
5. The best preservative of sound principles.
But it may be asked, do not those who bring forward the doctrines of the Church among ourselves, act in a manner at variance with this principle? It is sincerely hoped that they have not done so. They have indeed put forth the highest and most sacred doctrines, respecting the regenerating power of Baptism, and the sacrifice of the blessed Eucharist, matters beyond all others of sacred reserve, and "the discipline of the secret." But they have done so by constraint, as bearing witness, which they were bound to do most distinctly and fully, to principles and doctrines of the Church, vitally important, but very much forgotten, and even denied by many, not only of Christians in general, but also of her ministers. And this they have done, not so much in popular discourses as in argumentative treatises, directed for the most part to the clergy: and not, it is hoped, without some sense and due reverence for their importance; certainly not in a manner to move the feelings and render them popular, by separating them from other distasteful truths, but with those accompanying doctrines, which have a tendency to make both those that hear and those that speak, serious. Those especially (or we might speak in the singular number) who have brought forward these two great doctrines just mentioned, might have met with a more favourable reception from the world, had they not associated with them other subjects equally forgotten, and naturally unpopular and unwelcome, such as the danger of sin after Baptism, the necessity of mortification, the doctrine of Judgment to come. Surely if any thing would dispose men to speak of those high doctrines of the Sacraments with reverential reserve, and to hear of them with seriousness, it is their connec
tion with these subjects: not that they have been thus connected with any designed intention of this kind, but that they have naturally gone together, from the spontaneous acting of those who felt the importance of what they said, and have therefore, as it were accidentally, fallen in with the Scriptural mode of teaching. Had all religious matters been treated with this spirit, there would have been no need for the subject of this Tract. That these Church principles should be received by others with this spirit, is perhaps, in this age, scarcely to be expected: and yet, from the absence of it, are to be apprehended all those evils which we have deprecated under a different form.
The one and sole end of all that has been taught respecting the Church, is simply to point out the means of obtaining and continuing in GoD's favour, during our stay in this world, and being accepted of Him for the sake of JESUS CHRIST at last, and escaping the sad doom that awaits the impenitent world. If considered in any other point of view they are thoroughly unprofitable and vain, of no more worth than the idle speculations of the day, the schemes of business, and plans of politics, merely specious theories respecting things most holy, which may touch the fancy with their transcendent beauty, and amuse the imagination, but leave the heart worldly, and pride unsubdued ; nay, with regard to a better world, they are in such a case not merely unprofitable, but they may become snares to delude the conscience, and leave us at last, like all earthly things, with a shadow in our hands, having for ever lost the substance.
For in proportion as they are themselves holy and true and life-giving, they must necessarily be dangerous in their abuse. But now, if this one end and aim is the most rare thing in the world to obtain, the very last thing to be expected of creatures corrupt and inclined to evil as we are, then, of course, it is to be feared, that these principles may be perverted to other than these the highest of all purposes. At all events, if they should spread and become popular in the world, then of course one would fear, that they are not taught, or at all events not received, in their purity one would apprehend that there was something wrong;
or possibly, if such holy principles are received without a change of life, it may be but the raising of that temple of God, in which Antichrist will sit, and exalt himself at last.
For as every thing is difficult in proportion to its excellence and value, very difficult therefore must it be to enter into the fulness of these blessings, which these doctrines of the Church contain. For instance, if we take the subject of prayer, the spirit and temper and practice of prayer being more essentially that of the Church Catholic; how difficult is it to pray aright; so much so, that it were not too much to say, that it requires the very utmost stretch of our endeavours, the perfection of our highest faculties, the labour of a long life, to learn to pray. The very best of men are but learners in this art, and become most sensible of their deficiencies. How much more so must it be to realize also the Divine Sacraments, and attain unto the greatness of their efficacy! Such indeed were to understand the meaning of Divine words, which speak of the Church as a "kingdom of Heaven;" it were to be indeed a heaven upon earth. And in the progressive attainment of that knowledge, "blessed is he that feareth always."
The less therefore that these most holy doctrines are received into the heart, the more loudly will they be spoken of: Divine fear, like Divine love, has ever about it this natural modesty : it has little to say, its chief language is that of prayer, and that in secret as all its ways are directed to One who seeth in secret, it is ever fearful of man's praise, and fearless of his reproach.
Those who most value sacred things will in general say least about them: admiration indeed and joy will find a voice, and a spontaneous expression, as the shepherds published abroad what they had heard of the Angels, and seen: but yet in such eloquence there will always be a natural reserve. And even these feelings, when increased greatly and fixed very deeply, will be silent the shepherds spake, but Mary was silent, she "kept these things and pondered them in her heart."
Disputation, says Hooker, speaking of the Eucharist, is a sign
of a want of love, and perhaps a sign of a want of faith also, for it was something of a disputatious spirit that St. Thomas evinced, when he said that he must feel and handle. Whenever, also, there is a secret doubt of an opinion which we wish to entertain, there is a disposition to dispute and persuade, in order that by obtaining the persuasions of others, we may establish our own convictions. This may be seen in the origin of the doctrine of Transubstantiation it arose in a dereliction and forgetfulness of the discipline of reserve on that subject; in a want of the high and ancient reverence; in a desire to establish and prove to the world a great secret of God. The result was profaneness in both parties. Not only in the denial of Sacramental grace on the one side, but in the low and carnal conceit which Transubstantiation introduced. So awful in its consequences has been the attempt to bring out the doctrine of the Eucharist from the holy silence, which adoring reverence suggests; the attempt of the human understanding with unhallowed boldness to fathom the deep things of God; to circumscribe the Ineffable, who hath made His pavilion in dark water, with thick clouds to cover Him; to look into the ark of God; to pry into those secret things which the ALMIGHTY has reserved unto Himself. The Primitive Church thought otherwise, as of a doctrine to be realized by devotion, rather than capable of being expressed in human language; considering it impossible for human reason to define its nature, or to think and speak worthily of that which is Divine. It is no part of our duty to censure the state of other Churches, but where, for our own protection, Christian wisdom and charity require it. And it is worthy of observation, that, in the Church of Rome, that which is Roman and Tridentine, in distinction from that which is Catholic, is characterized by a want of this The want of reserve and reverence which attends the elevation of the Host, and the public processions connected with it, is very great indeed: these are indications (like many things of a different nature in the system we have condemned) that it is popular impression, and not a sense of God's presence, which is considered for here there can be no true veneration; and "where GOD is, there must be the fear of Him." They are of
the nature of religious frauds; it is effect which is more thought of than truth.
The same may be shown in many other circumstances of their religion it is indeed the Catholic Church, but decked out with tinsel and false ornaments to catch the eye; like a statue of purest marble painted and besmeared, till scarce a vestige of its true substance is seen. Consider, for instance, their sacred edifices: the Church holds these to be worthy of the deepest veneration as the places of God's peculiar presence; and the altar more especially. But what is to be said of tawdry decorations of Churches and sacred things? would we wish to see any human being that we venerated and respected thus meretriciously adorned? It is an attempt at comparatively little cost to catch the eye, very unlike that ancient religion, which is costly, and chaste, and simple; which would gladly be poor in this world, that it may offer to GOD what is most worthy and valuable, and cares not, but in a secondary manner, for the effect on mankind; for we always look to that which we most love.
In these things to look to God will lead us to the reserve of a sacred simplicity: ostentatious singularity and display is a looking to man. To know GoD in His holy places; to know GOD in His Sacraments, in His WORD, in prayer, is the kingdom of Heaven. But if the Israelites could fall away with the pillar of fire before them, and the destruction of the Egyptians behind; if, in the light of the Baptist's teaching, men could “rejoice for a season only;" and could eat of the loaves from our SAVIOUR'S hands, and yet deny Him; we have more reason to fear for the abuse of sacred truth, than presume on its being revived among us.
And how are the many evils to be avoided which we would guard against? To say that we are always to be reverent on sacred things, to speak with reverence, to act with reverence, surely this will not produce what we want; but rather the very opposite for to put on the appearance of reverence for example's sake, or for the edification of others, were but the very thing which we condemn, and were no better than formal hypocrisy. All that can be said is, not to seek to remedy by external effects,