Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

BREAD

that is, of his passion, that is, of the atonement made by it, in which we actually partake as often as we worthily partake of this holy Sacrament. How our Church understands this text may be seen in our twenty-eighth Article, which quotes the very text in these words; “ The “ bread which we break is a partaking of the body of “ Christ, and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking “ of the blood of Christ.” If we look into our older English versions, as Parker's and Tindale's, we shall there find the text thus rendered: IS NOT THE CUPPE OF BLESSYNGE WHICH WE BLESSE, PARTAKINGE OF THE BLOUDE of CHRIST? Is NOT the WHICH WE BREAKE, PARTAKYNGE OF THE BODYE of CHRIST? I know not whether the Geneva translators were not the first that changed partaking into communion; thereby obscuring, in some measure, the sense. But they subjoined a note to clear it, which note is this ; “ The effectual badge of our conjunction and incorpo“ration with Christ.” They should have added, by our partaking together of the merits of his death or crucifixion : which would well cohere with the 17th verse immediately following: Because the bread is one, we being many are one body : for we are all partakers of that one bread. So I render the text with the late learned Dr. Wells.

I have now run through the most exceptionable parts of the Exposition, such as appeared to me of greatest moment: and the reader will observe that they all relate to points of faith, worship, or pure theology. I have no fault to find with the author's morality, which is excellent: and I could heartily wish that his professed followers in other matters where he differs from us, would at least follow him in that which both he and we equally agree in. I must do him the justice to say, that he appears to have been sincerely well affected to virtue and Christian morality : which is more than can be said of many others who yet make a great stir about morality, crying it up in opposition to faith; not with any real design to advance either, but insidiously to undermine and destroy both. For after all the pretended aversion of such men to the Christian mysteries, it is not to be doubted but that they have a much greater aversion to Christian practice. They run greedily in with any new schemes of belief, not as containing true religion, but as carrying less religion in them, and approaching nearer to irreligion. For they judge very right so far, that lopping off the main branches first is a great point gained, and will make it

easy

afterwards to strike at the root. In the mean while, they can be content, for decency sake, to cry up virtue and morality, so long as inroads are making upon faith, and Scripture is thereby struck at; which, as they very well know, is the only sure and solid foundation both of faith and morality. If Scripture is once depreciated, and sunk in esteem, what will become of our morality? Natural religion, as it is called, will soon be what every man pleases, and will show itself in little else but natural depravity: for supposing the rules of morality to be ever so justly drawn out, and worked up into a regular system, yet as there will be no certain sanctions (Scripture once removed) to bind it on the conscience, no clear account of heaven or hell, or future judgment to enforce it, we may easily imagine how precarious a bottom morality will stand upon.

The result then is, that Christian morality is the only one that will in all points answer; and this must be supported by preserving the just authority of the Christian law: and this can no otherwise be kept up, but by maintaining the veneration due to sacred Writ, both as to matters of faith and practice. If we weaken its authority in respect of either, we do it in both, and endanger the whole. There is therefore no effectual way of repairing the breaches already made, but by returning to our old and well-tried principles, and there making our stand. If we once yield to go farther than is reasonable, or warrantable, in the subversive way, there is no knowing where or when to stop. All beyond that, is wandering in uncertainty, and steering without mark or compass. The first Reformers, here and abroad, proceeded like wise men, reducing religion, as near as could well be, to its pure and primitive state: they went by rule, and so knew when they had done enough. There is an absolute necessity of fixing a certain rule, to prevent the endless excursions of flight and fancy. That rule is Scripture, but taking antiquity along with it, as the best comment upon it. It was wise and excellent advice given in one of our Canons in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, in the year 1571. “ That the Clergy should teach nothing from the pulpit, “ as being of religious obligation to the people to believe, “ but what should be consonant to the doctrine of the Old or New Testament, and what the Catholic Fathers “ and ancient Bishops had collected or concluded from “ thence a." How would both truth and learning flourish, were but this rule carefully observed ? Men that know little of the Fathers will of course speak with contempt of them. They were men, it is true; but they were withal great and good men: a character which those will never arrive to, who presume to flout or despise them. But to proceed: the rule I have already mentioned: there ought we to abide, and there to fix our firm footing. Every, departure from it will be a departure, so far, from truth and sobriety; which if carried on but a little

way will do mischief, but if pursued to the utmost (as it is natural for a spirit of error to be restless) can end in nothing else but the most deplorable confusion.

I doubt not but those who first began to divide upon the article of the Trinity might have truth and godliness at heart, (as they understood them,) and might design well, not aware of the wild distractions they were bringing us into. And though they have some of them lived to see and observe the deluge of infidelity flowing in upon us, it is probable that even that will not convince them of the false step made at the beginning, to which the rest has been owing: so natural is it for most of us to be fond of our own schemes, and blind to our failings. But certainly indifferent standers-by may easily now see what should have been done at first, and what should never have been attempted. It is plain enough that Arianism is but the dupe to Deism, as Deism again is to Atheism, or Popery : time will show which, unless we can yet be wise enough to retreat. I shall only add, that we have (God be thanked) still an excellent Church, pure and primitive, and by conforming to it, are in as safe a way to salvation as were the ancient martyrs, or other Christians of the best and purest times. Happy might it be for us, could we but forbear tampering, and be content when we are well. Reformation is good, when reformation is wanting: but to be always reforming is no reforming at all : it is behaving as children tossed too and fro with every wind of doctrine. All errors of any moment have been purged off long ago, by the care of our Reformers, and why then are we still reforming? Physic may be proper at certain seasons : but to pretend to live constantly upon it, instead of food, is a certain way to impair, and in a little time to destroy, the best and soundest constitution in the world.

• Imprimis vero videbunt (concionatores) ne quid unquam doceant pro concione, quod a populo religiose teneri et credi velint, nisi quod consentaDeum sit doctrinæ Veteris aut Novi Testamenti, quodque ex illa ipsa doctrina Catholici patres et veteres episcopi collegerint. Sparrow, Collect.

p. 238,

THE

NATURE, OBLIGATION, AND EFFICACY

OF THE

CHRISTIAN SACRAMENTS

CONSIDERED;

IN REPLY TO A PAMPHLET,

ENTITLED,

AN ANSWER TO THE REMARKS UPON DR, CLARKE'S EXPO

SITION OF THE CHURCH CATECHISM.

AS ALSO

The Comparative Value of Moral and Positive Duties

distinctly Stated and Cleared.

« AnteriorContinua »