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and barbarism, had been accumulated round the fair edifice of Christ's Church, could no longer be tolerated by an age comparatively enlightened ; and consequently the Reformation took place. Had men been allowed at this crisis to follow the convictions of reason and conscience, the results might have been very different; but, unfortunately, temporal policy and religious intolerance threw the sword into the scale, and men were brought to judge of the most important spiritual questions in the spirit of party, and with all their malignant passions in active operation.
The result then was, tbat the larger and richer portion of Europe adhered to the superstitions of popery, and to the wbole system of ecclesiastical polity as then subsisting ; that another portion, abjuring these superstitions, still adhered to the fundamental articles of the Christian faith, but reconstructed the Church as a society ; while a third portion reformed their polity as they had done their doctrine, by merely throwing away what was false or superfluous in each; but scrupulously abstained from breaking the continuous unity of the Church. To this last portion we adhere ; and as we constitute the smallest of the three di. visions of Christendom, it is the more incumbent upon us to be ready to give a reason for adbering to that middle line wbich our fathers adopted, as most agreeable both to truth and to expediency
?"If, then my young friends, you should be asked bya member of the Church of Rome, why your fathers broke the unity of the Church by seceding from the general communion of Christians at the period of the Reformation, I would advise you not to account for, but to deny the fact. They--I speak of the English Reformers--set up do new order of ecclesiastical government. They found that the Church in general, though built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles, had been overwhelmed by a mass of heterogeneous rubbish ; and this rubbish they knew it to be their duty to clear away. Nor was the fundamental reason which forced them into reformation any minute scruple of overnice consciences, any matter of standing or of kneeling, of organs or surplices. That of which they had to reform the public services of the Church was idolatry; not so much the material idolatry of image worship, as the crime of worshipping and serving the creature more than the creator;" and of setting up a thousand sainted mediators in the place of that “ one Mediator whom God hath appointed between God and man, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Tim. ii. 5.) In reforming herself, the Church of Christ in England used her Christian liberty, and performed her Christian obligations; and the guilt of separation lies with those who excommunicated her for her return to primitive purity of doctrine.
If you are asked, on the other hand, why they made so imperfect a use of the liberty they had attained, and remained so far ben hind the rest of Europe in the extent of their reforms, you may answer, that our fathers went upon the principle of changing notbing which they could conscientiously retain. They believed that the Church as a society bad been instituted by Christ bimself; and as it still existed, they did not acknowledge in themselves or in others a right to form a new association. They believed that the laws of this society had been vitiated, its obligations altered, its privileges abridged ; and therefore they believed that it was not merely their right, but their bounden duty to do their ats most towards restoring it to its original purity. But they never imagined they had a commis. sion to form a new society, such as their notions of expediency might dictate ; original purity was the object, and it was also the limit of their reforms. Thus they threw off the paramount authority of the Bishop of Rome, because they knew it to be an usurpat tion, but they retained the order of Bishops, because they knew it to be of Apostolic instia tution.
Such, my young friends, was the prineiple upon which the Church of which we have the blessing to be members was reformed. Ourg is no modern association. We ground our faith, not upon the acts of Henry or Edward, but upon the Acts of the Apostles; and we
acknowledge no birthday of our Church subu sequent to that on which our Saviour com. missioned his Apostles to “ go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the i Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”. We acknowledge all baptized per sons as members of Christ's visible Church: but we are forced to perceive that some of these have unwarrantably departed from the Apostles' doctrine, and that others have und warrantably broken up that society wbich the Apostles described as the body of Christ, undivided and indivisible, I say not these things in order that you may condemn either sects or persons who differ from us as sebis. matical. If I thought there were any ten, deney to such a spirit among you, I would say, “who art thou that judgest another man's servant p” But I say them, in order to satisfy you of the stability of the ground on which you stand as Episcopalian Protestants; and to arm you against arguments which, as the world now stands, I cannot fatter mysell your will escape being assailed with. You will probably meet with zealous and conscientioug persons, some of whom will urge that there is no salvation out of the communion of Rome; others that the only true church is some little society founded the other day; and others, that there does not exist, nor ever existed, such ra thing as a visible Church of Christ upon earth. I do not mean to arm you with
weapons to combat the arguments of such persons; for this you can be qualified only by à careful study of the ecclesiastical bistory of the first centuries. But I trust that the considerations. I have been laying before you will serve to secure you from the effect of vague assertion and declamation, either against our ecclesiastical polity, or in favour of any other. And that you should be secured from this effect is, I think, a matter of no small importance : for where there does exist a conscienţious regard for religion, it is deeply to be regretted that it should be wasted on the unprofitable task of choosing a church.
Being satisfied, then, that the religious so ciety in which God's providence has placed you, is really a branch of the society founded by Christ, and to which He committed the dispensation of his word, and sacraments ; keep in view, I. beseech you, that the object for which this. society was instituted, was the training up for heaven of “ a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”'. Whether our church be apostolic or schismatic; wbether its doctrines be orthodox or heretical ; whether its liturgy be edifying or delusive, are questions intrinsically of great importance, but of very little importance to the man who has no sincere desire to attain personally the objects for which the Church itself was instituted. That purpose was sanctification, the bringing of man's affections into conformity with