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Title: Obedience to the Articles and Rubrics of the Church of England - a Bond of Union between the Established Clergy
Author: Denniss, Edwin P.
Language: English
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Transcribed from the 1843 G. F. and J. Rivington edition by David Price,
email ccx074@glaf.org

                                  TO THE
                           ARTICLES AND RUBRICS
                          THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND,
                             A BOND OF UNION
                         THE ESTABLISHED CLERGY.


                                A SERMON,
                           AT BECCLES, SUFFOLK,
               _On WEDNESDAY_, _the_ 3_rd_ _of MAY_, 1843,
                           AT THE VISITATION OF

                                  BY THE
                      REV. EDWIN P. DENNISS, B.C.L.,



                         G. F. AND J. RIVINGTON.

                                * * * * *

                               M DCCCXLIII.

                                * * * * *

                             CHARLES SLOMAN,
                             GREAT YARMOUTH.

                                * * * * *

                                  AND TO
                      THE CHURCHWARDENS AND OTHERS,
                   (_At whose request it is Published_)

                               THIS SERMON,

                      HONORED BY THEIR APPRECIATION,
                        IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED,

                                                BY THEIR FAITHFUL SERVANT,
                                                               THE AUTHOR.


IT is with reluctance that the Author is induced to print the following
DISCOURSE, it having been compiled and written without any idea that its
publication would have been called for; and, moreover, as he has felt it
due to the justification of his own conduct to make a _personal_
reference to himself in its pages, he would fain have been contented to
allow the vindication of his principles to have ended with the public
delivery of his Sermon.  Having, however, been requested (not by ALL,
but) by a majority of his Reverend Brethren, as well as several of the
Churchwardens, before whom it was preached, to give it more general
publicity, he feels it would be both ungracious and ungenerous on his
part, if he suffered his own feelings to oppose their kind (though he
believes too partial) wishes; and more particularly as they are pleased
to consider that its publication, at this Eventful Epoch of the Church,
will be beneficial, as advocating a safe medium between the extremes of
Roman Superstition and Protestant Dissent, and exemplifying the true
principles of the Reformed Religion as by law established in these

The Author is indebted to one or two able publications for _some_ of the
arguments he has embodied in his Sermon; and if, by their adaptation, and
his own humble and inferior, but yet zealous efforts to purify the true
Church of Christ from _Formalism_ and _Enthusiasm_—faith in the Redeemer,
and obedience to His divine precepts are promoted—he feels those Authors
he has ventured to quote, will, with himself, be devoutly thankful to
Almighty God that they are permitted to be instruments in His hands for
the furtherance of so holy and blessed a cause.

In conclusion, the Author begs leave to add that, having in obedience to
the requisition of the Venerable Archdeacon of Suffolk preached his
Visitation Sermon, and in compliance with the wish of many of his
Reverend Brethren who heard it, now given it to the Public, he conceives
he has fulfilled all that can be required of him:—he has conscientiously
and explicitly stated what is his opinion of the present agitation in the
Church, and how the unity of her Ministers can best be promoted, he will
not, therefore, be induced to enter into any controversy with either of
the parties to whom his views are opposed.

Oulton Rectory, _May_ 8_th_, 1843.


                             EPHESIANS, iv. 2, 3.


ALTHOUGH in performance of the duties of our sacred calling, we, the
ministers of the Gospel, are habituated to the practice of delivering our
discourses in public; and although those of us especially, who have been
for some time in the ministry, may be justly supposed to have conquered
that inherent diffidence, which more or less embarrasses a tyro in
elocution; yet nevertheless, upon an occasion like the present, when one
of a public body, whatever be his standing, is called upon to address,
for the first time, an assembly of those of his own order—those of whose
piety, learning, research, and ability, he must be fully sensible; he
will necessarily enter upon the task with feelings of more than ordinary
anxiety, distrustful of his power for an undertaking of so much, and so
critical importance.

It would, my Reverend Brethren, be an unworthy and presumptuous
affectation of confidence on my part, if I did not confess how sensibly I
am at this moment impressed with this feeling; if I did not assure you
how gladly I would have forgone the honor to which I have been called by
our respected Archdeacon—of this day addressing myself to you.  At _any_
period it would have been to me a service of deep anxiety; how ten-fold
more so do I feel it at this eventful epoch, when it is impossible for
any candid observer to deny that there is much in the actual condition of
the Church of England, to inspire the most intense solicitude for the
future.  Deeply must we all participate in the agitation which now
affects her, and which has so attracted the notice of several of the most
eminent Bishops of our Church, as to cause them to make it the almost
exclusive subject-matter of their recent Charges to their Clergy.
Intently must he, who has the welfare of our Zion at heart, view the
present aspect of a controversy which threatens to shake the English
Church to the centre; but which I feel the most perfect confidence will,
under the sanctifying influence of Divine grace, issue in her greater and
more glorious prosperity—that it will tend to refine her from many of
those defects in practice, which now make up the measure of her
fallibility; and cause her to emerge from the ordeal more becoming the
radiant type of the Church triumphant, against which, we have the
assurance of our blessed Lord, “the gates of hell shall not prevail.”

Fain, however, as I would have avoided the position I now occupy, I felt
that it was impossible—I felt that I had a double duty to perform, from
which it would have been unbecoming in me to shrink.  The respect I owe,
in common with you all, to our justly-esteemed Archdeacon, would alone
have deterred me from declining his request to officiate at this
Visitation; but beyond this—that paramount duty I owe to our blessed Lord
and Master as His ordained Minister, now, and at all times, inspires me
to attempt to discharge, to the utmost of my ability, the performance of
any duty in His cause, which may lie within the humble sphere of my
usefulness.  Conscious however, as I am, how many of you, my Reverend
Brethren, far more competent than myself to this task, might have been
selected for addressing you to-day; yet strong in the conviction of
integrity of purpose, and yielding to no one in zeal for the unity and
prosperity of the Church of Christ, I rely _mainly_ on that Divine
support which can supply strength to the weak, sanctifying them to be
“meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work;” {9b}—and
next, I look with confidence to the candid and generous indulgence of
you, my Reverend Brethren, whom I am now addressing, whose holy Christian
calling so pre-eminently qualifies you to carry out that divinely-taught
precept of doing unto others as you yourselves would be done by,—to grant
me the meed of lenient criticism, and believe me when I assert that, in
any thing which I may this day address to you, I am earnestly desirous of
avoiding all personality, or seeking to give offence to any—that in my
humble endeavour to promote the good of the Church and the glory of God,
I am solicitous of bearing in mind that I am addressing Ministers of
Christ, acting, with myself, under the same Apostolical
commission—pledged all to walk by the same rule, and to speak the same
thing—bound all by the same vows, with interests, and pursuits, and
duties identical; and that we should all be guided by those words of the
great gentle Apostle, which I have selected for my text:—“With all
lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in
love, and endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of
peace.” {10}

At no period could such an exhortation be more requisite.  I have
said—and I believe it will be conceded by all of you—that this is an
eventful epoch of the English Church.  The religious spirit of the age
seems to be singularly marked by extremely opposite
characters—_Enthusiasm_ and _Rationalism_; the former betraying its
votaries into wild excesses of fanatical extravagance; and the latter so
unduly exalting human wisdom, as to undervalue the doctrine of Holy
Scripture.  There is abroad also a spirit of _Latitudinarianism_—a
species of counterfeit liberality, which, in the vain desire of
conciliation, increases division, and multiplies heresy, by palliating
the guilt of schism, or by diminishing the number and undervaluing the
importance of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.  Of the alarming
magnitude of the peril arising from this source, we ought to be made duly
sensible, when we remark some of those, whose sincere faith in the Holy
Gospel would seem to be above suspicion, who are, nevertheless, betrayed
into lending their aid and countenance in furtherance of this unfortunate
scheme.  Captivated by the amiable desire, but fallacious hope, of
uniting in bonds of brotherhood, faith and scepticism, truth and heresy,
they are insensibly beguiled by this deluding phantom into the net of
infidelity, and are themselves entangled in its meshes ere they are alive
to the consequences of so dangerous and unholy an alliance.  The leading
prejudice, the very key-stone of this falsely called liberality, is the
notion that sincerity is all in all; that, provided we are secure of our
“integrity before God,” and conscientiously embrace religion under the
form that best accords with our own views, it matters not whether we be
of _this_ or _that_ communion; or whether we be of any communion at all.
But however charitable this may be in _theory_, it has proved itself most
erroneous in _practice_.  Conceding truth to error, on the ground of
expediency—or when, for the sake of obtaining the _semblance_ of peace,
and the reputation of liberality, we would veil that marked boundary
which separates between those who _are_ and who are _not_, of what we
know and believe to be the true Church of Christ,—never yet has been, and
yet never will be, the means of securing unity in the Christian Church:
in plain words, it will fail, as it has failed, in making Churchmen of

We should bear in mind, my Reverend Brethren, that unity of _spirit_ is
not the _only_ thing to be thought of and promoted; we are to have regard
also to the unity of the _body_.  Now, if the Church be a body, a visible
incorporated society, she must, like other incorporations, be under the
government of certain rulers, and under the guidance of certain
regulations.  And so, in fact, we find the Church to be: she has all the
marks of a visible incorporated society.—She has a regular form of
admission: the Sacrament of Baptism.—She has a constant badge of
membership: the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.—She has peculiar duties:
repentance, faith, and obedience.—She has peculiar privileges:
forgiveness of sins, present grace, and future glory.—And she was placed,
by our Lord, her founder, under officers of His own appointment, the
Apostles and their Episcopal Successors, by whom the affairs of the
Community are to be regulated from time to time.  Now, if the Church be
thus a body, we must preserve her unity by deference to her laws, her
articles, and canons, in their plain, literal, and grammatical
acceptation, and by obedience to her constituted authorities.

The Church, under God, is our nursing mother; and the only image of the
Church Catholic which we know of, is that which _she_ embodies to us.
She is the representative of Christ; she consigns us with provident care
to the protection of our Lord, even before we are conscious of the
blessing; she teaches us to lisp in holy words; she dedicates our youth
to God; and, in her pure and comprehensive discipline, trains us up into
our spiritual manhood.  Even then she inspires our devotion, while she
regulates our faith, and accompanies us from the cradle to the grave in
that grand circle of offices to which I have just alluded, and which
embraces every vicissitude and condition of life, instructing us how to
improve them, how to sanctify even earthly occupations, by impregnating
them with a divine spirit, and conferring a consecration from Heaven upon
them all.  These, my Reverend Brethren, are powerful claims upon the
heart and judgment of all reasonable and sound-thinking men, to do their
utmost to promote the unity of the Church; and should make every
Churchman, and especially every Minister of the Church, pause long and
ponder well ere they disparage her claim to Catholicity, or to humour the
subtle scruples of Separatists, they presume to dishonour her
formularies, and risk, we know not what ultimate results, or what
calamitous consequences to the Church and to the Nation, by overthrowing
the ancient landmarks of opinion, and sapping the traditional faith and
the undoubted loyalty of men to her communion.

The movement in the Anglican Church, which, at the present time, has
occasioned that violent oscillation between two extremes, has, as we all
know, been set in action by the energy of a body of pious and eminently
learned Divines of the University of Oxford; and whatever difference of
sentiment may exist, as to their opinions and judgment, I believe I may
safely assert, that the meed of commendation which has been awarded them
by those Dignitaries of our Church who have alluded to their writings, is
universally and most justly conceded to them by all candid and
unprejudiced persons, _viz._ that they are men of acknowledged piety and
sincerity, of unsullied morality, and profound learning and research.

I have said that the duty allotted to me this day is one from which I
would fain have been absolved; but there is a circumstance connected with
it, which affords me much personal satisfaction—and it is this:—that
while I thus most freely and cheerfully bear this testimony to the
character and ability of the authors of the “_Tracts far the
Times_;”—while I do not shrink from declaring, but am rejoiced to
acknowledge, the good service they have, in my humble estimation, in many
ways rendered to the Church;—I, at the same time, am far from subscribing
to _all their opinions_: nay, I deplore most sincerely _much_ that they
have _written_, _much_ they have _done_—only too painfully proving how
fallible even the best-informed and best-intentioned amongst men may be.
While they viewed with just alarm and grief the spirit of
Latitudinarianism which was rapidly leavening the Church of England, they
fearlessly and honestly stood forth to arrest a torrent which was
undermining the foundation of that venerable fabric, and awakened us to
the danger of that schismatic poison which was insidiously stealing
through the whole frame of her system.  They have recalled us to the
sacred obligations we are under to regard and uphold the fundamental
doctrines of the Church of Christ, in the beauty of their pristine
purity, as restored to us at the Reformation—they have vindicated the two
Sacraments, and especially that of Baptism, from the deadening and false
interpretation with which it has been attempted to obscure them—they have
revived a spirit of zeal into the ministrations of the Church, and
rescued from oblivion the many portions of her beautiful services which
had too generally fallen into desuetude—they have, as it were, purified
the temples of our native land, dedicated and consecrated to the service
of God, from a laxity which had lamentably paralysed the spirituality of
the services of the sanctuary.  These things, amongst many others I could
name, they have done;—for these we have reason to feel gratitude to them
for their labours of love;—but, in the plenitude of zeal, they have,
alas! outstepped the bounds of moderation—in some of the later Tracts,
and particularly in the Ninetieth, they have justly alarmed all
sober-minded members of the Established Church of England.  In defending
the Catholic truth, inherited from our immediate forefathers in the
faith—the Reformers of our Church, and through them from the Apostles
themselves—they have, I lament to say, ventured to adopt some odious
corruptions of Romanism, glossing over their most prominent deformities,
and investing them with the name of Catholicity; and then endeavoured to
maintain their position in the Church, by arguing the approximation of
our Articles to the Decrees of the Council of Trent.  Nothing can be more
lamentable, nothing more reprehensible than this;—as well as the adoption
of some external ceremonials of no intrinsic value, but which savour of
an unworthy fondness for the outward pomps and ceremonies of the Romish
Church.  Grieved as I am to be compelled conscientiously to make these
acknowledgments, I am yet happy to have this public opportunity of
expressing my sentiments on the subject; because, I regret to say, I
have, individually, been most unchristianly and uncharitably maligned as
a bigoted disciple of the so-called Oxford School; and I trust,
therefore, this free and unreserved declaration of my decided dissent
from their errors, will exonerate me in future from the unkind and unjust
aspersions, which have been so unwarrantably and lavishly heaped upon me.

My Reverend Brethren, I must calmly, yet earnestly protest against the
injustice and inconsistency of men, either of the Clergy or Laity, who
are ready to hurl anathemas against those who, mindful of the solemn vows
made at their ordination, as Ministers of the Reformed Religion, are
conscientiously resolved to observe, as fully and exactly as they are
able, the Rubrical injunctions of the Church.  Because they do so, are
they, with any shadow of justice or charity, to be roundly taxed with
embracing all the erroneous opinions of the Oxford Divines?  Are they to
be stigmatized as “papistical” and “superstitious” in their ministrations
and doctrines?  The _reverse_ is the truth.  They thereby prove
themselves the most safe and zealous advocates of the reformed faith;
they present the most undaunted front against the hateful errors of Rome
on the one hand, and the no less dangerous and insidious underminings of
Geneva on the other.  In defence and justification of their practice, I
may be permitted to make the following short extract of a Charge
delivered by one of the present eminently pious and learned Dignitaries
of our Church.  He says,—“A strict and punctual conformity with the
Liturgy and Articles of our Church is a duty to which we have bound
ourselves by a solemn promise; and which, while we continue in the
ministry, we must scrupulously fulfil.  Conformity to the Liturgy
implies, of course, an exact observance of the Rubric.  We are no more at
liberty to vary the mode of performing any part of public worship, than
we are to preach doctrines at variance with the Articles of Religion.  If
there be any direction for the public service of the Church, with which a
Clergyman cannot conscientiously comply, he is at liberty to withdraw
from her ministry; but not to violate the solemn compact he has made with
her.” {18}  Now I apprehend every conscientious English Clergyman will
act upon _this_ principle:—that while Scripture, and Scripture only is
his rule of faith, he is, in the interpretation of Scripture, to defer to
the Ritual, Liturgy, Articles, and Formularies of the Church of England;
he is to promote the glory of God in the highest—peace upon earth, and
good-will amongst men; but to do so, not in the way which _he_ may
imagine to be the wisest, but according to the Regulations, Canons,
Rubrics, and Customs of his Church;—to these he is bound by vows the most
solemn to conform.  _These_, my Reverend Brethren, I have conscientiously
endeavoured to make _my_ rule;—and where are we to look for Unity, if we
find it not here?  And what terms of reprobation can be sufficiently
strong to designate the conduct of those, who, by causing discord among
brethren who in principle are united, would thereby make harmony for our
enemies?  Alas! in every community such persons are found to exist, whose
element is strife; who live by faction; who, mistaking party spirit for
Christian zeal, in their contest for what _they_ allege to be truth,
forget that Christianity is also a religion of Peace and Love.  At the
present time such persons are busy among ourselves; some openly avow
their wish to prevent a union among the Clergy; in the bitterness of
their hatred towards the Established Religion, they conceive that the
cause of Truth can only be supported by the formation of hostile
confederacies within the Church: others covertly, and with the
_semblance_ even of _friendship_ towards us—the better to disguise their
real malignity—yet exert their utmost unholy endeavours to arm brother
against brother, in the hope of waging a worse than civil war, with the
deadly weapons of theological hatred.  Few in number, they would scarcely
be deserving of notice, if, by anonymous misrepresentations—which ought
never to be credited until they have been fully examined—and by wilful
and gross exaggerations, which from their very absurdity ought to excite
the scepticism of charity; they had not partially succeeded in inflaming
the passions, and exciting the prejudices, of many good and zealous, but
ill-judging and mistaken men, who, instead of regarding _measures_,
respect _persons_; who confound opinions with principles; and who, in an
exclusive fondness for latitude of interpretation and practice, refuse
even the meed of integrity and sincerity to those with whom they differ,
even though they are acting in obedient accordance with their plighted

It is not my intention upon this occasion to enter upon a minute
investigation of those points of controversy which have recently been,
and at present are, the subject of so much and general discussion.  The
limit to which I must confine my present Discourse precludes my doing so;
nor do I consider the inability I am thus under of serious moment.  I am
not, however, intending to say, that in this variance of opinion, there
is nothing of importance.  If we were assembled in Convocation, empowered
to make further reforms in our Church, or to discuss the need of them,
our opinions with respect to the value of tradition, as a supplementary
explication of Scripture, would be important in the extreme; so would be
our opinions concerning the efficacy of the Sacraments, and the relative
value of primitive ceremonies, if we were reconstructing our Baptismal
and Liturgical offices: nor of less importance would be our opinions on
the Apostolical Succession, if the decision were to rest with us whether
the Church should recognise the ministerial functions of men not
episcopally ordained.  But, happily for us, these questions have been
decided for us by the Church; and to the decision of the Church, by the
very fact of our being her ordained ministers, we are bound unanimously
to obey, and must receive her decisions as our common principle: this, I
presume, none of you, my Reverend Brethren, will attempt to gainsay.  I
may be allowed, however, briefly to remark upon one or two of the most
prominent topics of dispute; and first, then, as to the Apostolical
Succession.  Upon this subject, it is indisputable, there was no
controversy up to the period of the Reformation.  It was then, as it had
been for fifteen hundred years, taken for granted that no man might
presume to minister in sacred things, unless he were first appointed to
the office by persons having authority to make the appointment, by their
regular succession from the Apostles.  Upon this point no one is more
eloquent or more decided than our reforming Archbishop, Dr. Cranmer. {21}
Accordingly, when in the reign of Elizabeth, the thirty-nine Articles
were agreed upon in a Convocation of our Clergy, this doctrine was
assumed:—“It is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of
public preaching or administering the Sacraments in the congregation,
before he be lawfully called, and sent to execute the same.  And those we
ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which be chosen and called to
this work, by men who have public authority given unto them IN”—not BY,
but “IN”—“the congregation, to call and send ministers into the Lord’s
vineyard.” {22a}  And accordingly, in legislating on this subject, the
Church of England ordains that, “no one shall be accounted and taken to
be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon among us; or be suffered to execute
any of the ministerial functions, except he be called, tried, examined,
and admitted thereunto, according to our form of Episcopal Ordination; or
_hath had formerly Episcopal Consecration or Ordination_.” {22b}  Now I
conceive, a more complete answer to the question—“Who are they that have
authority in the congregation?” could not be given by a Church which, as
we believe and declare, reverences Scripture and the ancient authors.
And hence it is that, while a Minister of the Roman Church officiates
among us, upon a recantation and renunciation of his errors, without
further ordination; a converted Dissenting Minister is _unable_ to do so;
the one _having had_—and the other not _having had_—Episcopal Ordination.
The time will not allow me to enter into that part of the discussion,
whether an _exact personal_ succession of Episcopally ordained Ministers,
can, or cannot be proved.  Suffice it however for us, that we are
incontestibly assured, that the _Institution itself_ has descended by an
evident succession, even from the Apostles to ourselves.  While men
uncalled and uncommissioned venture to approach and minister at the
altar—while our Apostolical descent is gainsayed, and the necessity of
rightful ordination set at nought—it is bounden on us, my Reverend
Brethren, who _are_ Episcopally ordained, to show that we bear no
visionary dignity—no barren privilege—but a most sacred office, full of
divinely-appointed power to strengthen and to sanctify those that in
faith discharge it.  Let _us_ show, by God’s help, in _our_ lives and
labours that, in the Apostolical Ministry, there resides a living
influence, stamping it as the ordinance of Christ, and conforming His
servants to Himself.  If _others_ must account for assuming a commission
never given to them, _we_ must account if we abuse and neglect that we
have received; and _ours_ will be the heavier reckoning.  Let us then
consider one another, within and without, to provoke unto love and to
good works.  Here is rivalry without collision—contention without strife.
And God grant that a more abundant measure of a holier spirit, and a
closer conformity to our Master’s pattern, impressed as a countersign
upon our testimony, may henceforth and ever bear witness unto us, that if
_any_ are Christ’s, so are _we_ Christ’s.

And now with regard to the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration.  I am
really at a loss to conceive how any Member of the Established Religion,
who candidly and without mental reservation subscribes to the Articles of
our Church, can entertain any doubt upon it; and more particularly when
the Offices for Baptism and Confirmation are so clearly, so absolutely,
and so decidedly worded.  That Regeneration at Baptism is the positive
doctrine of the English Church, I cannot suppose will be denied.  All
those of our present bishops, who have alluded to it in their Charges,
have distinctly declared and admitted this to be the case, as laid down
in the twenty-seventh Article.  Now the Regius-Professor of Divinity at
Oxford (himself an opposer of the Authors of the _Tracts for the Times_),
thus speaks:—“No subscription to the Articles can be honest and true,
which falls short of an assent to the Doctrines contained in them, or
which is made with any reservation.  They are expressly set forth for the
avoiding of diversities of opinions, and establishing true consent in
religion.”  At your ordination “The Articles are proposed to you, as
giving the right sense of Scripture; and you are supposed, when you
subscribe to them, to have accepted them as such.  No qualification,
therefore, no restriction is to be admitted, in the act of subscription
to the Articles, however drawn from pious considerations of what is due
to Scripture.  They must then be interpreted by themselves, by the
phraseology of the Church, and a knowledge of its intention in drawing
them up, and proposing them to its members.” {24}  It is clear then, my
Reverend Brethren, as long as we continue in the ministry of the
Established Church, we have no liberty of interpreting the Doctrines _of
that Church_, in any other way than those Articles decide, to which we
have solemnly subscribed.  If we do so, we can with no honesty or
consistency continue ourselves recipients of her honours and emoluments.

As to the efficacy of the rite of Baptism in infants, what need we,
again, stronger or more satisfactory proof of the doctrine of our Church
than these words of our Office which we are directed to use?  “_Seeing
now_, _that this child_ IS REGENERATE and grafted into the body of
Christ’s Church;” and again, “we yield thanks to God, _that it_ HATH
_pleased Him to_ REGENERATE _the infant with His Holy Spirit_.”—It is a
futile evasion to say, these words are used upon the faith of the
Sponsors, and in the charitable spirit of _anticipation_ by the
Congregation, that the Infant _may be hereafter_ regenerated;—for the
very same prayer is enjoined to be offered up after _Private_ Baptism,
where there are _no_ Sponsors and _no_ Congregation.

But why are not the opposers of this positive doctrine of Baptismal
Regeneration _consistent_?—In other cases, when arguing against those who
are anxious to preserve the discipline of the Church, they insist upon
“_a literal and grammatical explanation_;”—but here, the doctrine of the
Article and Office not according with _their_ sentiments, they are
solicitous to evade this rule.  In Dr. Cardwell’s _History of Conferences
connected with the revision of the Book of Common Prayer_, it is stated
that, at that of the Savoy in 1661, when it was suggested by the opposers
of Regeneration at Infant Baptism, that the wording of the Office should
be altered to signify that Regeneration might _hereafter_ ensue;—it was
decided by the Commission, composed of the Bishops and other learned
Divines, that such alteration could not be sanctioned; that “the denial”
of Regeneration at Infant Baptism “tends to anabaptism and contempt of
the Holy Sacrament;” and therefore, that the Office, as it now stands,
was strictly in accordance with the Holy Institution, and consequently
the true doctrine of the Reformed Church. {26a}

I must here, however, limit my observations on controversial points of
doctrine.  Suffice it to say, as I have before remarked, that in all
matters of doubt, we cannot do better than fulfil the vows we have made,
and be guided by the plain and literal directions of the Articles and
Rubrics of our Church, rather than trust to our own fanciful and fallible
interpretations.  No safer guide, my Reverend Brethren, can we
follow;—for if she is at once the descendant of the purest, truest
representative of the Church Apostolical—if the Articles of her faith be
all of them proveable to demonstration, from the word of God, as the
primitive times interpreted it—and if she has only done her duty to God
and man, by refusing either to add to this sacred deposit, or to diminish
aught from it—if she has rejected nothing of the forms of preceding ages,
but their superstition, or, of their creed, but its novelties; and
emancipating herself from a fictitious antiquity, has taken her stand at
once on the times of our Saviour and His Apostles—if, in refusing to lord
it over Christ’s heritage, she only leaves us “the liberty wherewith
Christ has made us free,” {26b} after teaching us how to use it—if, in
discarding earthly mediators and the protection of angels, she brings us
directly to our King and Saviour, to the over-shadowing wings of Him who
loved us, and the strength of the living God—if, in the majestic
austerity off her formularies, she chastises the imagination and the
attractiveness of will-worship, only to offer up the sacrifice of
ourselves, our souls and bodies, in words which are the perfection of a
reason elevated by faith, and modelled upon inspiration—if she refuses to
limit the Saviour’s offices, or modify the Gospel message, because she
dares not rationalize upon the ways of God, or tamper with her
commission—if she discards the pomp and trappings of an external
ceremonial, that she may not obscure the simplicity of the truth, and
that she may be clothed in the Church’s true glory, the righteousness of
Christ;—if such be the Church of England, as our fathers and fathers’
fathers have held her to be; and such, as while Scripture remains in its
integrity, and sole authority over faith, nay, as long as the primitive
fathers remain to interpret it, she can prove herself to be against all
gainsayers; great will be the sin upon our heads if we refuse obedience
to her as our guide, and great the crime towards those who come after us,
of whose inheritance we are the guardians, if we permit so much as one
stone of our holy house to be moved—if we suffer the efficacy of her
Sacraments to be neutralized by modern scepticism—her offices to be
mutilated by doubting priests and self-elected interpreters—and the
beauty of her Unity to be marred by the Latitudinarian spirit of
concession and expediency.

There is one practice which has so unhappily, in my humble opinion,
obtained extensive usage as to render a notice of it, I conceive, very
important; but that I might not be deemed presumptuous or illiberal in
doing so, I will lay it before you in the very words of the present
Bishop of St. David’s, as they occur in his last Charge, merely prefacing
them by saying, I am confident the practice they condemn is a fruitful
source of promoting disunion in the Church; and though it emanates, I am
willing to acknowledge, from zeal in the cause of religion, it is a zeal
without discretion, palatable, indeed, to Separatists, and consequently
productive of schism.  These are Dr. Thirlwall’s words:—“There are, I
fear, not a few cases in which a lecture in a school-room, or some other
common building, is substituted for the Church service, while the Church
remains closed.  Such a practice appears to me equivalent to an admission
that our form of prayer is really a _bar_, not a _help_, to devotion, and
may be advantageously superseded by the minister’s occasional effusions.
I cannot distinguish such meetings from conventicles; the presence and
presidency of the Clergyman only renders the implied admission more
glaring and pernicious.  It is a breach of faith to the Church, as well
as a violation of an express engagement.  The same remark applies to
every departure from the Rubric, grounded on no other motive than
deference to the taste and prejudices of a part of the congregation.”
{28}  Now I will not weaken the force of these powerful and sensible
remarks of Dr. Thirlwall, by any further comment of my own on this point.

So much has been said lately of the necessity of our carrying out _all_
the Rubric and Services of our Book of Common Prayer, that I must be
allowed to make a brief allusion to it.  No doubt, it is very desirable
that we should do so; but I conceive, the lengthened omission of many of
the injunctions of our Church, which has been suffered tacitly to take
place, now renders their restoration exceedingly difficult, if not
impossible.  I am sure it would indeed be futile, and nearly
impracticable, in most of our rural parishes, many with a
widely-scattered population, consisting of the humblest rank of
agricultural labourers.  For instance, it is enjoined in our Rubric, that
we should have _daily_ service; and this, in towns and populous places,
is highly proper, and ought, without doubt, to be carried into practice;
but with many of us, whose flocks depend on the fullest measure of daily
labour they are able to perform for their daily bread, it is not possible
or reasonable to expect them to sacrifice their existence, and that of
their families, to attend daily service in a Church, and that Church
often remote from their place of employment.  To such a case as this, the
maxim of “_Necessitas non habet legem_” is manifestly applicable.  But,
my Reverend Brethren, do not let us shelter _our_ laxity of ministration
under _one_ tangible and reasonable excuse: if we are unable to do _all_
we are enjoined, let us at least show our zeal and sincerity in our holy
calling, by doing what _is_ in our power.  I do maintain, then, that we
ought to celebrate divine service in our Churches, upon each of the days
on which we commemorate the leading events of the history of our Blessed
Lord; not only His Nativity, Crucifixion, and Resurrection, but His
Circumcision, His Manifestation to the Gentiles, and His glorious
Ascension.  I think, too, it is especially incumbent on us to pay a
stricter regard to the solemn season of Lent than is generally done; that
we should open our Churches for divine service on Ash Wednesday, and
every Wednesday and Friday during that penitential Fast, which our Church
most piously and reverently sets apart for self-examination and
humiliation.  I am quite confident it is not only practicable to obtain
congregations on those days, but that the opportunity offered to our
people of publicly worshipping God upon them, will be hailed with
gratification and thankfulness; not, perhaps, generally at first, but yet
progressively and encouragingly.  I can instance one parish, not very
remote from our own neighbourhood, where this has been essayed during the
season of Lent now just concluded; a small and purely rural parish, and
one offering, perhaps, as few features of encouragement to re-establish
such a practice as any of us could name: the average congregations on the
week days (exclusive of children) has been thirty-five, which, for the
first renewal of the practice, I think will be allowed is a very
satisfactory result; besides which, during and since the Lent weeks, the
Sabbath-day congregations have manifestly and remarkably increased.
Whatever may be said of the apathetic religious spirit of the people, I
hold them to be, at _heart_, inclined to sacred things, and sincerely
attached to the established reformed religion of this country.  Let not
_us_, my Reverend Brethren, be wanting in the zealous, earnest, and
uniform practice of _our_ duty, by carelessly and heartlessly offering to
our flocks that divine spiritual food we have it in our power, under God,
to supply, and we shall not find _them_ backward or lukewarm in accepting
its nourishment, and appreciating its value.  We shall, in this way, more
effectually subdue that monstrous hydra, _Schism_, which has reared its
hundred-fold head amongst the heritage of Christ, than by wielding
acrimonious weapons of controversy, or descending to heterodoxical
concession and subserviency.  As ministers of religion, it is our
paramount duty to lose no practicable opportunity of impressing the
vitality of its exercise upon those committed to our spiritual charge—of
banishing all discord one with another—of evincing (not in theory only)
that we are ministers of divine love and peace, so that it may be evident
to all the world, in our conduct and bearing, that we live together in
christian harmony and good-will.

Finally, my Reverend Brethren, in calling upon you to preserve inviolate
the bond of Union which should firmly knit _us_ together, who are the
consecrated lawful Ministers and Stewards of the mysteries of Jesus
Christ—let us bear in mind what awful responsibility rests upon
us.—_What_ is that exalted station we here occupy.  And whom amongst us
shall not these reflections constrain?  To be the Lord’s especial
portion—a remnant quickened from the dead—raised to a middle space
between the throne of our exalted Master, and the spirits of a world
redeemed; to be the visible representatives of an invisible Saviour,
associated with Him in the administration of His earthly kingdom;
concluding eternal peace, or denouncing eternal war, a savour of life
unto life, or of death unto death;—doomed ourselves to an eternity of woe
that cannot be deepened, or of glory that cannot be exalted;—Who shall
minister before Him and not tremble?  Who shall draw nigh to Him and not
rejoice?  Who can forecast our condemnation without despair, or
contemplate our blessedness without an ecstacy?

Which of us that be worldly, heedless, unprofitable, shall endure His
withering scrutiny, when He shall be revealed from heaven with fire?—or
in the sunshine of His final acceptance, remember our toil and labour?
Who shall bear in mind the contradiction and the cross, when the dead
shall ascend up out of the depths of the sea, spread over the plains, and
stand upon the mountains; when we and our people shall meet in the day of
that mighty gathering; when the judgment shall be set—condemnation utter
its thunders—and its voice die away in the tranquil peace of Heaven; and
the New Jerusalem—the foundation and corner-stones whereof, with Him we
are—shall be for ever with the inconceivable glories of Almighty God.

                                * * * * *

                                 THE END.

                                * * * * *

                  SLOMAN, Printer, King-street, Yarmouth


{9a}  Matthew, xvi. 18.

{9b}  Timothy, ii. 21.

{10}  Ephesians. iv. 2, 3.

{18}  The present Bishop of London’s Charge to the Clergy of the Diocese
of Chester, when Bishop thereof, in 1825.

{21}  See Archbishop Cranmer’s Sermon on the Apostolic Succession, p.p.

{22a}  Article 23.

{22b}  Preface to Ordinal.

{24}  Dr. Hampden’s Lecture on the thirty-nine Articles, pp. 39–41.

{26a}  Cardwell’s _History of Conferences_, p.p. 324, 325, and 356.

{26b}  Galatians, v. i.

{28}  Bishop of St. David’s Charge, delivered in 1842.

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