controversialists ; Cudworth, and Henry More, still lingering at Cambridge, and South, Jane, and Alrich at Oxford ;—these men, eminent for their learning, their talents, their character, and their piety, were no less eminent for the respect and honor paid to them both by the State and the community. How far their high intellectual endowments were developed and strengthened by the generous conflict of mind in which they bore so varied a part, it is not necessary to inquire. It is enough to say that we have two juxtapositions worthy of our notice at this period of English ecclesiastical history. On one side, we see the laity ready ever to persecute an unordained preacher, and yet the clergy illiterate, inactive, and socially dependent. On the other side, we see laymen active, spiritual, and zealous, and the clergy refined, pious, and capable, the objects of public reverence and love. It is not necessary to pause here, to consider why this was. It is sufficient to say that the existence of a missionary laity is shown by history to be in no wise prejudicial to clerical eminence and dignity.


In the remarks which have been just submitted, the following propositions may be considered as established :

I. A vast population, likely to exercise a decisive influence on the future, is now collecting in the Missouri Valley.

II. This population can not, as an aggregate, be reached by the methods of evangelization now adopted in our communion.

III. For the preliminary purpose of leading the careless in such a population, towards the Church and the ministry, layscripture-reading and preaching form an agency which is the most practical, and the most consistent with the means and prosperity of the Church.

IV. This agency is in accordance with the usages of the Church at the Apostolic era, and at the periods when her missionary labors were most blessed.

IV. Its active exercise is at least not inconsistent with the maintenance of a high degree of clerical independence, spirituality, and dignity. .

Such being the case, there are practical questions coming to each of us which we may do well to consider. And first, as to the clergy.

Here is an agency ready to do a great work; a work that you yourselves, from the very superiority of your position, can hardly do. It is to go beforehand, as did the men of Cyprus and Cyrene before St. Paul. What are you to say to it? There are many apostolic injunctions that give the reply. Take one: “Salute the beloved Persis.” Observe the commentary of the present Archbishop of Canterbury on this passage. “This,” he says, “is one of the many cases in which the language of Scripture is not in agreement with the general opinion. There are many who, if they uttered the language of the heart, would write in a different strain. Warn the beloved Persis that she meddle not with spiritual things, things too high for her;' that she trench not on the duties of others : it belongs to us apostles, alone, to discourse concerning the soul and the way of salvation.” Now what was the work of Persis, whom the Apostle commanded the church to salute? “Persis," answers Archbishop Sumner, “like others whom the Apostle mentions as having labored with him in the Gospel, had become a teacher, that is, was able to declare to others what the Lord had done for her soul; and to lay those first principles of the doctrines of Christ which the simplest believer may communicate to his ignorant and simple neighbor. Perhaps the person visited might reply to the words of comfort offered: But what warrant have I to believe that he is my Saviour, that I am a partaker of his redemption ?' Must the visitor stop here, and say, 'To answer you on such points is beyond my province; that must be left to the appointed minister.' Doubtless, the minister should be informed of every ignorant and hopeful inquirer; and it is one chief benefit of local visitation, that it conveys to himn such information ; but meanwhile what should withhold the Christian from imparting his own conviction, and assuring his afflicted neighbors that there is One to whom the weary and heavy-laden are invited, and that those who come to Him He will in no wise cast out? Are we wiser, or are we more jealous than the Apostle, who has enjoined Christians generally, ‘Be able to give an answer to any one that asketh the reason of the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear.” Perhaps, as is the case

with the great Western territory which is the immediate subject of these remarks, the minister may be in almost every instance ont of reach. Are souls on this account to perishsouls whom a plain knowledge of the word, conveyed by one near at hand, might have saved ?

If in such a territory, with a population which in all human judgment a regular ordained ministry can not at present pervade, a lay Scripture-reading and Gospel-teaching agency can be thus efficient as a preliminary missionary mechanism, may we not look to those to whom primarily belongs the forming the opinions of the Church, to give their aid in invoking laborers for such an object ?”

The responsibility of schism is in rejecting, not in promoting, snch a work. In those prairies, as elsewhere, the heart of man craves religion. Religious comfort, in some way or other, it must have. In its spiritual orphanage, none the less awful from the boundless sky-like plains at its feet, bearing in their solemn unison an antiphonal confession with the heavens above, to the glory of God the Father, the soul in these solitudes is oppressed with an even more than usual sense of its own alienation from the All-loving. It sobs and pants for a Divine, reconciling love, for ONE to mediate between sin and the Father. Who hears this cry? Not the Church. She is too far off. Perhaps, if the commercial theory be correct which would suppress the agency of which I have been speaking, she is so apparelled that she can not fly to the spot in time. Perhaps, if this same theory be true, her stately utterances in their full symmetry, conld scarcely form a medium by which the passionate heart of rude, hard, but sin-stricken and conscience-shocked men would first speak. But if the Church comes not, others come and answer this cry. Strange and fanatical sects loom and swell up on this far Western horizon, all the more strange from the refraction, which makes even ordinary objects appear grotesque and exaggerated. Superstition and imposture in their wildest shapes sweep their trains across the plains. Even orthodoxy here takes its hardest phases, and grace itself is exhibited sometimes with limitations so stern and appalling, sometimes with an eloquence so charged with

nervous energy and imaginative power, as to make still more unsettled the soul rocked to its centre by anguish. At the best, the system founded is one which has no solid liturgical basis, and in many instances is dissociated from an orthodox confession. It is not that which is taught by the Anglican communion, by her who should be the true national church of . the Anglo-Saxon race. But whose is the fault? On whom is the guilt of the schism ? Let the impressive warning of Bishop Jeremy Taylor be taken as an answer.

"Men would do well to consider whether or no such proceedings do not derive the guilt of schism upon them who least think of it; and whether of the two is the schismatic, he that makes unnecessary and (supposing the state of things) inconvenient impositions, or he that disobeys them because he can not, without doing violence to his conscience, believe them; he that parts communion because, without sin he could not sustain it, or they that have made it necessary for him to soparate, by requiring such conditions which to no man are simply necessary, and to his particular are either sinful or impossible." (Liberty of Prophesying, sect. 21, Eden's ed. Taylor's Works, vol. v. p. 601.)

To Christian laymen the order of duties, in the view that has been just given, is as follows:

Ist. If you have adequate education, suitable gifts, and are not too advanced in years, the call to preach is with you a call to the ordained ministry; not to be turned away from except under the strongest Providential indications to the contrary.

2d. If, from the period of life being passed in which you can well prepare yourself for a new and learned profession, and adapt yourself to its requirements, or if, from other just reasons, you are excluded, in your judgment, and in that of those authorized to advise you, from the ordained ministry, be it yours, laboring in your secular occupation, to work for Christ in the field in which it has pleased God to place you. There you will find your first obvious spiritual duties. In your parish there will be the assistance and support of your rector, who will abundantly need both. There is the Sunday-school. There is tract distribution, and visiting the poor and sick. If the rector invoke such aid, there is the parochial social meeting. If he do not, there is abundance of work open among the neglected, the poor and ignorant and careless.

There is the school-house, the union meeting, the public street or road. Thither proceed. Speak of the Lord to those to whom none others speak. It is your baptismal pledge, that you will not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified. It is in accordance with the opinion of your own communion, whose highest council has specifically designated unoccupied ground, even though such ground be ecclesiastical, for lay-labor.* But recollect that whatever yon do is merely preliminary. It is not to found a church, but to prepare a foundation on which a church is to be built. It is not to supersede, but to invite an ordained ministry. | 13d. So it will be, should it be yours to go forth to the great valley which has been the subject of the foregoing remarks. Thither emigration rapidly hurries, and many are the Christian laymen who are carried along in its current. A great work is theirs. Some have given an apostolic sanction to such a work. A beloved physician once not only carried the Gospel with him to every spot which he visited, in long and perilous journeys, but has placed that Gospel on record for the comfort of believers of all times. Laboring men and their wives, whose business, led them from point to point, spoke of the Lord Jesus where they tarried and where they went. So did Aquilla and Priscilla. So did Phebe. So even did the poor runaway slave, Onesimus, who was profitable to Paul the aged when the latter was a prisoner at Rome, and who, the apostle hoped, might “minister" as a brother to his master to whom he was sent. So it may be with you. As a teacher, in one of those school houses with which those remote regions are being filled ; as a physician, as a mechanic or farmer, it may be yours, supporting yourself by your daily labor, to glorify God by telling of His Son's name, and opening the

* Reason given by the House of Bishops in 1820, for declining to concur in the repeal of the 35th canon:

"The Bishops further declare their opinion concerning the Thirty-fifth Canon ag it now stands, that it does not prohibit the officiating of pious and respectable per. song, as lay-teachers in our churches, in cases of necessity or of expediency, nor the lending of any church to any respectable congregation, on any occasion of emer


« ElőzőTovább »