« AnteriorContinua »
AN APPEAL TO THE LITURGY.
We write none other things unto you than what you read or acknowledge....2 Cor. i. 13.
AS the testimony of one's own conscience is the strongest support under false accusations, so an appeal to the consciences of others is the most effectual means of refuting the charges that are brought against us. To this species. of argument God himself condescended to have recourse, in order to convince his people, that the evils which they imputed to him, originated wholly in their own folly and wickedness: "O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? and wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?"* "Have
I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are Lords, we will come no more unto thee?" "Ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel, Is not my way equa? are not your ways unequal?" The inspired writers also not unfrequently vindicate themselves in a similar manner. St. Paul, for
*Isaiah v. 3, 4. †Jer. ii. 5.31, ‡Ezek. xviii. 25.
instance, had been represented by some at Corinth as fickle and inconstant, because he had not come to them at the time they had expected him. To clear himself from this imputation, he informs them, that he had met with insuperable obstacles in Asia, which had prevented him from prosecuting his intended journey; and that in the whole of his conduct towards them he had been actuated, not by temporizing motives and carnal policy, but by the most strict unblemished integrity, He declares, that he had "the testimony of his own conscience" respecting this;* and that he had a further testimony in their consciences also, respecting the truth of what he said; that, in asserting these things, "he wrote no other things than what they had read in his former epistle, and were constrained to acknowledge; and he trusted they should acknowledge even to the end."
The faithful Minister of Christ derives great advantage from being able to appeal to records the authority of which is acknowedged by his hearers. By referring them to the holy Scriptures in proof of all that he advances, he establishes his word upon the most unquestionable authority, and fixes conviction upon their minds. The ministers of the Church of England have a yet further advantage, because, in addition to the Scriptures, they have other authorities to which they may refer in confirmation of the truths they utter. It is true, we are not to put *2 Cor. i. 12.
any human compositions on a level with the inspired volume: the Scriptures alone are the proper standard of truth; but the Articles; Homilies, and Liturgy of the Church of England are an authorized exposition of the sense in which all her members profess to understand the Scriptures. To these therefore we appeal as well as to the sacred Records, But because it would occupy more time than can reasonably be allowed, for one discourse to appeal to all at once, we shall content ourselves with calling your attention to the Liturgy, and especially to that part of it which we call the general Confession. We will briefly state what doctrines we insist upon as necessary to be received; and under each we will compare our statements with what we "read" in the Scriptures, and "acknowledge" in our prayers; And we trust that, after having done this, we shall be able to adopt the language of the text and say, "We write none other things unto you than what ye read, and acknowledge.
There are three things which, as it is our duty, so also it is our continual labour, to make known; namely, Our lost estate-The means of our recovery-and the path of duty.
Permit me then to state what we declare respecting the first of these points, Our lost es
We declare, that every man is a sinner before God: that both the actions and the hearts of men are depraved: that whatever difference there may be between one and another with
respect to open sin, there is no difference with respect to our alienation from God, or our radical aversion to his holy will. We affirm, that on account of our defection from God, we deserve his heavy displeasure; that the most moral and sober, as well as the base and profligate, are under condemnation on account of sin; and that all of us, without exception, must perish, if we do not turn to God in the way that he has prescribed.
We think, yea we are sure, that we have abundant proof of these things in the holy Scriptures. The universality of our departure from God, and our danger in consequence of it, is declared in the strongest terms by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans. "There is none righteous," says he, "no not one: there is none that understandeth; there is none that seeketh after God: they are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no not one." To this he adds, "that every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God."* We could wish you particularly to notice what an accumulation of words there is in this short passage to prove the universality of our guilt and misery. Of righteous persons, there is "none," "none," "none," "no not one," "no not one:" "all" are guilty, all "together," even "every" person, and "all the world." Will any one, after reading this passage, presume to think himself an exception!
*Rom. iii. 10-19,
Nor is the depth of our depravity less clear" than its universality. "The heart," says Jeremiah, "is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it! This is spoken, not of some particular person or age or country, but of mankind at large, even of our whole race. Solomon affirms the same when
he says, "The heart of the Sons of men is full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live and after that they go to the dead." And to the same effect is that declaration of St. Paul that "the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God neither indeed can be." To these general affirmations of Scripture, we may add the confessions of the most eminent Saints. Job, who was the most perfect man on earth in his day, no sooner attained the knowledge of his real character than he exclaimed, "Behold, Fam vile."|| St. Paul also, speaking of himself and of all the other Apostles, says, "We all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh; fulfiling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrathi, even 'as others."
In labouring to establish these awful truths we are often considered as libelling human nature and as representing men in such an humiliating and distressed state as to fill them with melancholy, or drive them to despair. Let us then in vindication both of ourselves and of our doctrines, compare these assertions with our *Jer. xvii. 9. Ecl. ix. 3. Rom. viii. 7. Job. xl. 4. §Eph. ii. 3. and Titus. ii. 3