« PrécédentContinuer »
are at present in an unfavourable state. The first question is, What can we do to raise them? For our design should be, not merely to ineet, and lament over the fact, but, each in our respective spheres, to lend our aid ; and thus gradually to relieve the Society from its embarrassment, and set it at liberty to perform those important operations to which the Report invites us. And nothing is much more easy. We have only to set our shoulders to the work, by making collections in different churches, by forming associations, by recommending the Society to our friends, by procuring occasional benefactions, or by doubling our individual subscriptions, at least for one year. Something of this kind should be done for any institution, that has a fair and good object in view. If a society is embarrassed, nothing is more plain than our duty to reinstate it in its proper situation, and in those circumstances of success to which it is our wish to raise it. And as to this particular institution, the fact is, that after all the statements made, none of us can estimate the full importance of it.
There is one part, for instance, of the proceedings of this Society. peculiarly useful-it circulates the formularies of our Church complete and entire. This is more than was ever done uniformly before. · When this Society was first established, it was not uncominon for large editions of the Prayer-Book to be circulated without the Thirty-nine Articles. How that took place, I cannot say; but I will affirm, that our people, and the young persons in our parishes and congregations, ought to have the opportunity of turning with the utmost facility and convenience to those great statements of doctrine in which such scriptural wisdom and moderation are united, in order that they may become established in the faith. For it is a fact, and will be confirmed by those who have read Ecclesiastical History most minutely, that much of the peace of the Church depends on coming to a right and comprehensive determination on the clear and important points of truth; and then referring to every one's conscience to decide on the minor and less certain ones. By our Articles of Religion we are united in defending our church from the incursions of those who, under the name of Christianity, would bring in a mere cold and starved rule of morals, while they omit those peculiarly Evangelical doctrines, which alone can raise man from death to spiritual life and feeling, from self, to the glories of that Christianity which, amidst all the superstitions by which it has been beclouded, has guided thousands of humble souls into the doctrine of pardon and righteousness, excited in them the spirit of submission, piety, humility, peace, and holiness, and eventually brought
them to the haven of eternal rest. And for all these ends nothing can be more important, than to have our Articles printed and circulated with our Prayer-Books.
Besides this point of the Articles, your Society is bringing forward another part of the formularies of the Church in our ordinary Prayer-Books; I mean, the Ordination Services, now, nearly for the first time, reduced from the great folios and quartos to the manuals and common editions for private use. As soon as I saw the small Prayer-Book with this service in it, I placed one directly in my own closet, that I might survey with the least inconvenience the vows by which I was bound; which, I fear, by others as well as myself, have been too much forgotten through not having them continually before us. There is yet another thing which I may
allude to, . and that is, the Book of Homilies, those invaluable sermons of our Reformers. Where were these before this Society was established? Why, many persons in England did not know what they were. They were a collection of Sermons rare and obsolete, in large and ponderous quartos, or a rarely-seen octavo. This Society broke them up and published them, for the first time, in little tracts for general use; and the circulation of many of these---as, for instance, the Homily on the Misery of Man, on
the Salvation of Mankind, &c.—has been very useful. I know one case of a poor man who was dying, to whom my curate gave the Homily against the Fear of Death. If he had given him the large entire volume, the dying man could not have used it; but your Society enabled us to put into his hand the Homily appropriate to his situation, and he was instructed and comforted.
By this general diffusion of the Homilies, you, moreover, teach your people how our Reformers understood the Articles of our Church; and thus you provide for the necessities of the present and every future age; for it is not at all impossible that attempts may be made in our own Church, as well as in others, to sap the foundations of our Reformation, and to cast into silence and oblivion our fixed and established Articles. It is possible that questions may be so framed as virtually to introduce new articles of faith. It is possible, that, instead of thirty-nine, we may have eighty-seven, or some other number proposed. Supposing such a case should arise, these sermons of our Reformers will be a barrier, in the understandings and hearts of our people, against innovation, which, by the providence of God, will greatly assist the appeals of our pious clergy.' We shall be able to trust these important doctrines to that generous and religious feeling which animates
the larger part of our community, and show to any, who would pervert our faith, that it. would be useless to attempt to impose new articles, however artfully disguised, on the conscience of the nation.
I think my friend, Mr. Jowett, said, that when he was in the Levant, he found that the sentiments and statements of our Reformers, in our Homilies, were peculiarly appropriate to the feelings of those who were the most peaceable and best disposed in the churches there. The arguments of men who have gone over the same ground, must answer the best of purposes, to those who are making their way out of the errors of a corrupt church.
It is, further, of the greatest importance, that our chaplains and missionaries should not be without the Homilies, in Hindostan and different parts of the heathen world. The argument contained in these discourses may be applied to strengthen those, who have embraced Christianity, against the peril of relapsing into idolatry, of the existence of which our missionaries are well aware. Our Homilies will be a benefit in this case, which it is impossible for us to estimate.
Another thing I would mention, is, that in France, Switzerland, and other countries, many pious persons have a very high opinion of our Church; and therefore it is surely important