« PreviousContinue »
noblest and most salutary of affections which can dwell in the soul of any human being, whether a child or an adult. The familiarities of home-life, the disdain of many things learned in school-life, and the freedoms of thought gathered up in social life, all tend to play havoc with a child's feeling of reverence: in many cases almost the only, and generally the chief, counterpoise is to be found in religious instruction, and regular attendance at worship. If, despite its aid, we have to lament the diminishing reverence of the young, how rapid would be the deterioration if this help were abolished, or the use of it abandoned!
It must not, however, be forgotten that religion does not consist alone in church-going. One may regularly attend worship, and yet be both internally and externally vicious. There may also be a few persons in the world to whose religious life regular attendance at worship is not indispensable. I have never known such, except they were confirmed invalids, or were in circumstances where places of worship were inaccessible. If angels worship and adore in clustering companies, it is somewhat arrogant for any one lower than the angels to claim exemption from this angelic necessity. Public, like private, worship was intended, not as an end, but as a means to an end: the end in view is the strengthening within the soul of the worshipper of everything that is good, and the loosening of the hold upon him of all that is evil. That public worship does help in promoting this purpose all earnest worshippers will testify. Who is so far advanced in spirituality and holiness of life as to be able to forego the use of this "means of grace?" The Lord Jesus prayed in private and in public, alone through the midnight on the mountain and in Gethsemane; almost His last sigh was a public prayer for those who knew not what they did men should surely beware how they claim to have outgrown the necessity of prayer to which the Saviour Himself was subject! In every one of its manifold meanings is the promise true, that wheresoever "two or three are gathered together" in the Lord's name, there He "will be in the midst."
A truly religious life is a twofold thing :-an approach to the Lord by means of worship to receive from Him so much of His love, wisdom, and power as we can contain; and a going forth into the active duties of life to exercise and manifest the gifts of love, wisdom, and ability which we have received. It is thus a continual reception and impartation, operation and co-operation, resulting in a truly reciprocal conjunction of the soul with God. He is the great fountain
whence we replenish our human vessels, and we are to become conduits of His blessings to others. To pretend that we can do without worship is equal to pretending that we can live from ourselves. We can do without worship just as others can do without literature, art, or science, until they sink their humanity into animality, and forfeit every high prerogative which distinguishes man from the beasts which eat, drink, propagate their kind, and perish.
For regular worship A CHURCH MUST BE CHOSEN.
In the choice of a church at which to worship, our doctrinal views, personal preferences, tastes, associations, and even convenience, rightly require to be consulted. In the fullest sense, that is our true church where we can derive most help, comfort, and spiritual stimulation. The Church is a spiritual home, where we feel most "at home," that is, where we feel to be in the fullest sympathy with both pastor and people. No sectarianism of thought ought to rob us of the power of worshipping God anywhere; but worship is mort effectual where we can find that we most largely realize the purposes for which public worship was instituted. No one can afford to be always a spiritual vagrant, a wanderer from church to church. For our children's sake this is most undesirable. Nor can any one mentally afford to have his convictions as to religious truth continually outraged, or to have his sense of fitness in forms of worship done violence to, or to have his intellectual and æsthetic taste constantly impinged against. Merely parochial reasons should not be strong enough to induce any one to sit in mental pain, or to go home from worship cold, critical, or sarcastic. Such worship is not worship, and it profits nothing. The multiplication of churches in our cities, towns, and villages, is at once the result of liberty in spiritual things, and an opportunity afforded for the exercise of freedom of choice. The law of all progress is the development of the heterogeneous: we need not therefore lament the increasing diversity of religious thought. The only possible law of association is mental and moral affinity: men will like to be with those whom they like, because they think and feel alike on the same subjects. This law of intellectual and moral affinity will dominate our choice of the church in which to regularly worship.
Not only is it a social duty to unite in public worship with those with whom we can feel most fully in accord, it is a further duty to assist in the maintenance of that worship. Whatever be the mode by which the money was procured for the erection of a church, or by which the requisite amount of money is obtained for the continuance
of worship therein, we have no right to enter into the fruits of the labours of others without seeking to do our share, be it small or large, towards the inevitable expense. Generally, the value we place upon a thing is measurable by the price we are willing to pay for it. The common criterion of value is "how much?" There are some who seem to think they ought to obtain religious comfort, help, and instruction, for nothing, and who are quite content to leave the inevitable burden to be borne by others. Of how great a value such assistance is regarded by such persons they significantly show. We pay for our amusements, we subscribe for political and social objects, we insist on doing our share in returning friendly entertainment, is it not at least equally a duty to aid in the maintenance of "our church," and in the philanthropic work done in connection therewith? It is a prudent and honourable course for any young couple to adopt, to determine what proportion of their income they will annually devote to charitable purposes, including in that phrase the Church, the poor, and the support of such benevolent institutions as may commend themselves to their judgment and sympathies; this fund to be regarded as sacred, as "trust-money," for the purposes to which it is dedicated, and their practical expression of thanksgiving to God for the mercies they have received. Out of this fund, annually to be expended and annually renewed, such a portion should be devoted to the Church as the young couple may from time to time determine. I know of a number of cases in which this practice has been resolved on and adhered to, and I know of none who have formed the resolution and maintained it who have not been prospered in worldly things; while far higher than this worldly prosperity are their inward states of contentment and rest, of trust in the Lord and joy in the good they do and have done. (To be continued.)
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.1
In our remarks upon this work, we had occasion to notice the author's views on the subject of inspiration, from which we felt compelled to dissent. There are other subjects of which it treats, on which we shall
1 A History of the Catholic Church of Jesus Christ from the Death of St. John to the Middle of the Second Century; including an account of the original Organization of the Christian Ministry and the Growth of Episcopacy. By Thomas Wimberly, Mossman, B.A., Rector of Torrington, Lincolnshire. London: Longman, Green, & Co., 1873.
be more in agreement. The work is, indeed, rather historical than critical, and is an attempt to present a true picture of the Christian Church, chiefly as an ecclesiastical body, during the first century and a half of its existence—or at least from the death of John to the middle of the second century.
The author's thorough acquaintance with his subject, and his desire He says, to be impartial, make his work reliable and valuable. "When I began to write the history of the early Primitive Church, I had no other object in view than, in as simple and straightforward a manner as I could, to tell the truth. It was after I had begun to write that the idea dawned upon me, by little and little, becoming at length like a fair, luminous orb of charity, that this very truth about the Primitive Church was itself, not merely the best, but the only true Eirenicon. And I saw that that Eirenicon, which the Divine Lord of love would bless, would not be that which appealed only to Episcopal Churches, or those possessing what is termed 'Apostolical succession' through bishops, and which left other Christian communities out in the cold shade of neglect, but that Eirenicon which was addressed with an equal love to all who made profession of love to a common Lord, the Saviour of a sinful race, the Son of God and the Son of Man. The time is surely fast approaching when it will be universally acknowledged that preference for one form or method of the external organization of Christianity above another cannot be St. accepted as the measure of men's love for a personal Christ. John's test of heresy and of orthodoxy must be the only one in these the latter days, as it certainly was in the first ages. Hereby know we the Spirit of God; every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of Antichrist whereof ye have heard that it should come.'
So far we have reason to be satisfied with the author's qualification for writing history. He desires and endeavours to be impartial. We have no less reason to be satisfied with his scholarship and acquaintance with his subject. "A student of the Fathers I had been almost all my life, but had always read them with a ready-made apparatus of Anglican views and theories at hand to interpret them, until, a few years ago, I resolved to review the whole of Ante-Nicene literature, divesting myself, as far as I could, of all preconceived opinions. This history is the result of that review. I am not surprised that, under the former system, I always, or nearly always, found Anglicanism in
the Fathers: nor that I have since discovered very little of it, but a great deal of what is not Anglicanism. I incline more and more to believe that readers may find in the Fathers what they look for; and, truism as it sounds, albeit slightly paradoxical, the only way to learn what the Fathers do say, is to read them without looking for anything at all."
One thing these extracts will have indicated. The reader is to expect to hear more of the external form than of the internal prineiples of the Church during the early period of its history. The work itself does not, however, give so great prominence to the ecclesiastical branch of Church history as these quotations from the preface would seem to imply. What is brought to light on this subject is very much like what it was but reasonable to expect, and what other historians have found. The form of ecclesiastical government was at first simple-suited to the state of the Church and adequate to its requirements. To suppose that the Church came into existence in its greatest perfection as an ecclesiastical institution, and that all subsequent changes are necessarily corruptions, is equally unphilosophical and unhistorical. Church government, like civil government, exists for the sake of order, and for the benefit of those who are governed; and there is no merit in any particular form of government further than it answers these ends. To institute a particular form of government simply on the abstract principle that order requires it, without being able to see or to show that it is needed for the preservation of order, and for a present practical use, is to create forms which have no substance, or to institute offices which have no functions. Both in the Israelitish and in the Christian Church we find offices created and officers appointed as the use for them arose. Moses appointed subordinate rulers to judge the people, when he found his own unaided powers unequal to the task; and the apostles appointed deacons to relieve them of the duty of serving tables, that they might devote themselves more entirely to the preaching of the Gospel. Use was the end and object of these appointments; and whenever use creates and regulates, no danger need be apprehended from the particular form which the government of the Church assumes. Order requires that there should be governors, and that there should be subordination among the governors; but whether the form should be episcopalian or presbyterian does not seem to be a matter of essential importance, provided the proper end of government be answered. And yet in our own country and time the two Church establishments south and north of the Tweed, and the Anglican Church and the great body of dissenters,