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1 COR. XI. 16.


AMONG the specific accusations sometimes heard against the ministry of the Church, as a body, it has been said that we are indifferent to Missionary efforts and to the Bible society, and opposed to prayer meetings and revivals of religion. I shall touch briefly on the first three of these charges, designing to devote this lecture chiefly to the last, as being most in need of discussion.

1. With regard to the first of these accusations, I must utterly deny that it has any just foundation. The Church is not indifferent to Missionary efforts. To say nothing of those noble undertakings in which our Mother Church of England has been so deeply engaged, there has, for many years, been a Missionary society amongst ourselves, formed by the whole American Church, in General Convention, and designed expressly to embrace the entire field of foreign as well as of domestic missions. The objects of this society have been pressed upon the public attention with indefatigable zeal, and are, at this moment, more ardently prosecuted than ever; although the priority of our domestic claims, and the want of clergymen calculated for the foreign field, have prevented, as yet, the actual success of any distant effort, except the important and highly valued mission to Greece. But the purpose to establish a large circle of foreign operations, has long since

been publicly announced by the Executive Committee of that Society; and for some of the most interesting points of their selection, individuals are now in a course of preparation. May the Spirit of God be with them!

2. Equally unfounded is the second of these charges; that the Church, as a body, is indifferent to the distribution of the Bible. The first Bible Society on earth, sprung up in the bosom of the Church of England; and the first instance in which that example was imitated on this side of the Atlantic, was in the Bible Society of Philadelphia, formed under the auspices of our venerable Bishop White. True it is, that many of our clergy prefer conducting this branch of modern Christian effort, as a distinct class, instead of uniting with other denominations in a general association. True it is, that others amongst us choose to combine the distribution of the Book of Common Prayer, with the distribution of the Bible; and perhaps there may be a few, who doubt the expediency and the authority of any separate prosecution of the different parts of the Gospel system; believing that the truth of Christ can be most successfully diffused, by keeping all the members of the divine plan together, in their own sacred connexion. Those who hold this last sentiment think, that the work of salvation is not committed in Scripture to the Bible alone, nor to the ministry alone, nor to the act of prayer alone, nor to the sacraments alone; but to the WHOLE TOGETHER: the Bible standing in the first rank, as containing the Charter and Constitution of the Christian Church, but requiring a consentaneous use of all the prescribed means, in the same harmonious order of combination which we see in the practice of the Apostles themselves. Those reasoners, therefore, are as much devoted to the principle of distributing the Scriptures, as any of their brethren can be; but instead

of the modern method of dividing the various objects of Christian zeal into distinct societies, they doubt whether the ancient plan is not more in accordance with the Bible itself; and therefore they would expect a better result, if the zeal of the Church, as such, should send out the living preacher -the missionary of the Cross-and with him, and through his instrumentality, should also distribute Bibles, Prayer Books, Tracts, and every other aid, which could assist him in his work of gathering his fellow sinners into the fold of the Gospel.

It is by no meaus my design to compare the correctness of these various sentiments. The last mentioned is probably the opinion of a very few; and whether right or wrong, does not vary the general fact before stated, viz. that Churchmen, as a body, have taken a deep and extensive interest in the Bible Society; and have been, in truth, the first in that particular field of effort, both in England and in the United States. So much for this accusation.

For myself, however, I acknowledge that I turn, with much greater confidence, to another view of our reverence for the Bible, which to my mind is far more conclusive and satisfactory. It is the fact, that ours is almost the only Church now existing, which preserves faithfully, the primitive rule of incorporating all her public worship with the stated reading of the Book of God, in the common language of the people, according to a fixed and positive calendar, from which our ministry are not at liberty to deviate. The Greek Church reads portions of the Scripture in the ancient Greek, which is only intelligible to their scholars; the Roman Church reads portions in Latin, which the people do not understand. Our Protestant brethren of the various denominations, may read a chapter in the Bible before their sermons, and they may, if they think proper, let it alone.

But in the Church of England, and in our American Church, the minister must read, in the common tongue which all the worshippers understand, large portions of the Psalms, two chapters from the Old, and two chapters from the New Testament; besides the Epistle and Gospel, inserted in the Book of Common Prayer, and composing a part of the antecommunion office. These portions are not left discretionary with the ministry of the Church, but are set down in a Calendar which is in the hands of the people: And so thorough is the principle on which that Calendar has been constructed, that in those Churches where the daily service of Morning and Evening prayer is kept up, almost the whole Bible is publickly read once, and many portions of it several times, during every year. No proof could be given of our reverence for the Scriptures,and of our solicitude to make the knowlege of them universal, so conclusive and satisfactory as this.

3. The third charge, namely, that we are opposed to Prayer meetings, is a total misapprehension. We maintain that all our public worship is a prayer meeting; that is, a meeting for the purpose of uniting in social prayer: and the structure of our Liturgy, as will be shown more fully under its proper division, is designed for this very end; because it demands the language of devotion from the people as well as from the minister; and thus makes the duty of Prayer truly a common and a social exercise. But I willingly allow that we do not approve the mode in which prayer meetings, technically so called, are conducted; when those who consider themselves ordained to minister in sacred things, invite the laity in their own presence, to perform their ministerial office, without any ordination at all. We believe that wherever a minister of Christ is present at social worship, it is HIS DUTY to lead in devotion, and to exhort

the people. We believe that he has no right to devolve these duties upon the laity, so long as he is able in person to discharge them; and we are very sure that all who attend these meetings, if severally consulted, would agree in saying, that they would much rather hear their pastor, than listen to one of the flock. In a private social meeting indeed, where there is no official minister of God present, or where bodily indisposition disables him, it is another matter. We hold that every Christian man is so far Priest in his own house and in his own family, that it is his duty to offer the sacrifice of prayer and praise for himself and for his household, as well as for any friends who may form a part of the company. But the ministry are ordained for this special office, to give themselves continually to the word of God and to prayer; and, therefore, a proper regard for consistency seems plainly to demand, that no man, not called officially to this work, should undertake it in the presence of the ministry.

This principle of official consistency may appear more plainly, when we apply it to the duties of other professional men. Thus, no one thinks that a judge ought to invite a member of the bar to charge a jury, or perform any other part of the judicial functions; the physician would not be justified in devolving his office upon one of his patients; the lawyer does not sit down in court to listen to the pleading of his client; the military captain does not ask a private soldier to fill his post, or assist him in its duties; nay it would be thought a breach of order for a superintendant or overseer of any body of men, to set one of that body in his place and in his presence, to manage his peculiar and proper business. And shall we be more tenacious of consistency in every other office, than in the ministry of the most High God, which no man may lawfully exercise un

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