« ZurückWeiter »
suredly be Christians, who do not reverence him for the sake of his Master and his work. He,' saith Christ, speaking to his apostles and their successors,' who despiseth you, despiseth me, and he who despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me. As my Father sent me, so send I you,' to all ages and nations ; "and lo, I am with you to the end of the world.' It follows, that where our bishop is, there is Christ, and where Christ is, there is the Father. Can a bishop then, considered as such, be an object of contempt? Not possibly, unless he himself should forget, that he is a bishop.
* Let no man despise thee,' is therefore to be understood as a command given, not only to the inferior clergy and the laity, but also to the bishop himself. If the philosopher with good reason orders every man to reverence himself, a bishop, in the superior lustre of whose episcopal character the man, the private person, is lost, should much more reverence himself, as one in whom nothing mean or base can possibly harbour, without betraying the majesty of his constituent. To prevent this, a lively conscience, with a mind unbiassed, and a moderate degree of understanding, may be sufficient. The wisdom requisite to prevent the contempt of a bishop, is laid up ready in the holy Scriptures. A little address, or rather an unaffected simplicity, added to this, will more than compensate for a want of refinement. It is hardly to be imagined how far an impartial understanding, I mean of the moderate sort, will carry a bishop in the choice of fit persons to fill his vacant benefices, and in governing his diocess, beyond a vastly higher capacity, under the crooked guidance of an eye, squinting to family connexions, or views of higher promotion. A warm zeal for the glory of God in the salvation of souls is essential to conscience in the episcopal character. This zeal, and that impartiality, will carry up a bishop near to perfection.
But if to these are added, the powers of a strong understanding, enlarged by a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, of theology, of mankind, of the canon law, of the ecclesiastical statutes, and ballasted by discretion and firmness of soul, we have then a bishop, qualified to raise the dignity of his person and place to its very summit. If infidelity should assault him, guarded on all sides by the armour of God, and shining in the lustre of a holy example, he shall so lay about him with the two-edged sword of his Master, as to overwhelm all opposition. If superstition or enthusiasm should hope to take advantage of his meek and dispassionate coolness, the sound reason, by which he acts and speaks, will easily puff out the ill-fuelled blaze of the one, and, like a solar light, extinguish the feeble fire of the other. If his church, through schisms, through contrariety of opinions, through discontents, at the legal maintenance of his clergy, shall, at any time, like a too fiery horse bound under him with a violence, dreadful to weaker riders, you shall see him strain or relax the reins with a skill, thoroughly well accommodated to occasions; you shall see him keep his seat firm, and his countenance serene.
This dignity, arising almost to majesty, is rather heightened, than lowered, by the humility of the man, as often as the meanest of his flock hath occasion to approach him; by his fatherly tenderness of heart, when misery cries to him for relief; by his plainness in doctrine; by his calmness in argument; by his candour and good-humour to gainsayers; by bis affectionate hospitality, equally removed from pomp and sordidness; by his unaffected contentment with what he possesses ; by his residing perhaps in the most remote and disagreeable part of the kingdom, so that no man hath room to say to him, with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness ? Though qualified to adorn the most brilliant court, and to support distinction among princes, he is found among the sheep, and is better pleased to handle the crosier than to wear the mitre. How free, how affable, how engaging, and yet how guarded, is his conversation in mixed companies ! How instructive, when he and his clergy enter together on the discussion of some important subject of religion, some Scriptural difficulty, or some point of ministerial prudence! How easily and naturally he slides into a knowledge of their abilities, principles, tempers! How sensibly they grow into wiser and better men under his culture! A good bishop seldom fails to make a good clergy; a good clergy as seldom fail to make a good people. The sun of the diocess diffuses his light and warmth in plenty over the primary, and they again over the secondary class of Christians, throughout the whole system of believers.
Of such pastors we have had many, have still some, and more we shall have, if our destruction is not decreed. The work increases in proportion as profligacy of principle and manners grows upon us. It grows apace, and is already indeed come to such a height, as to require, I fear, more than human power to bring it under. We are at present an ignorant and abandoned people. There is none that doth good, no not one. From the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there is no soundness in us.' We quarrel about religion, and have none. The recusant saps the foundation of establishment; and the establishment, vainly considering its foundation as too firm to be shaken, deigns not to look so low as the mine. The Deist, aided by the Arian, spreads his spirit of indifference first, and then of contempt for revelation universally. At best, we are but half Christians. Dissipation of time, fortune, thought, extirpates all religion and virtue at the upper end of life, and rushes downward on the lower ranks, as fast as villany can derive the materials. Ours are the only bishops in the world, who never meet synodically, to confer on the truths, or coalesce in the spirit of religion. Hence a crop of portentous opinions. Hence unnatural warmth in the defence and propagation of false religions. Hence coolness to real religion. Hence, as a necessary consequence, wickedness is become rampant, for we have now found the way to sin on principle. The barometer of the church hath sunk far below the Laodicean degree. We shiver to a death of piety and goodness on the brink of atheistical indifference. What specific is there for this ague of the soul? what thaw for hearts so frozen? Are we to expect the thunder of God's judgments, ere we can hope to feel again the warm weather of Christianity? They shudder at the thought of these, which become every day more dreadfully probable, ought to rouse us to an intense exertion of all the little strength still left us, in order to a speedy recovery of Christianity, ere it is gone beyond our reach, and to a speedy reformation of manners, ere virtue and common decency are wholly banisbed from among us.
Is there none to guide the church among all the sons she hath brought forth? None that taketh her by the hand of all the sons she hath brought up? If we really believe, as we continually preach, that the salvation of souls, of our own souls too,
bought by the blood of Christ, with heaven and hell, are all at stake, how can we be cool? A cold fire, and a cold Christian, are equal absurdities in language, equal impossibilities in nature. But if there are degrees of absurdity and impossibility, as of infinite, how infinitely absurd and impossible must coldness be in a preacher of the gospel! in a bishop, from whom the saving wisdom of Christianity should descend, as from the head, and its vital warmth circulate as from the heart, through all the orders and members of the church.
Wanting reformation myself, I set not up for a censor or reformer of others, in speaking as I have done. No, having been called to this office, not sought it, in uttering this my lamentation over the church of God, I have filled but a small pipe, where a loud trumpet ought to have been blown, have pushed the lancet of truth into the general sore, though I pierced my own heart at the same time. But the wise have been taught medicine by a dog, and Rome was saved by the vigilant warnings of an animal, deemed still lower in the scale of understanding.
Vain however is the attempt of such a wretch ; vain, I fear, to put our trust in any son of man, or even in princes, for a remedy against evils, too inveterate to be removed or averted by any hand, but that which is almighty. Happy were we, after all, could we repose a rational hope in the Lord our God, from whom we have miserably departed. That this hope may nevertheless have some foundation (for infinite are the long-suffering patience and goodness of God) let us repent and pray.
O Lord God, the light and life of the soul, disperse our errors; revive our piety; turn thou us, and so shall we be turned, to thee, through Christ Jesus, our Redeemer, to whom, with thee, and the Holy Spirit, one eternal and glorious Trinity, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now and for evermore, Amen.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and
with all thy mind.
Hear now the charity sermon of Christ himself, on this his own text.
•When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
* And before him shall be gathered all nations. And he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats :
* And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.
• Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye children of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
*For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink : I was a stranger, and ye took me in :
*Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
• Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or, when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
* And the King shall answer, and say unto them, Verily I