ページの画像
PDF
ePub

sleep, shorn of all his spiritual strength, and fast bound, hand and foot, by luxury and indolence, on the lap of pleasure, while the gigantic Philistines of heresy and immorality are upon him! His faith and his conscience are so deeply on the snort, that neither heaven nor hell can rouse him. If you see him at all in motion, it is only to perform some mere legal duty, which not performed, might deprive him of his bread; but here however he goes so close by the statute, and so narrowly turns the corner of the canon,that Christ hath not the compliment of a hairbreadth more, though the sheep he died for, are perishing. But were the prospect of a better parish, in case of greater diligence, set before him by his bishop, on the music of such a promise, like one bit by a tarantula, we should probably soon see him in motion, and serving God (O shameful!) for the sake of mammon, as if his torpid body had been animated anew by a returning soul. Is it true then, that this world can do so much more than heaven? Yes, with him, who hath no sensation, but on the side next this world. It is true too, that all men have but too lively a feeling on the other side; so that it would infinitely advance the cause of religion and virtue, were worldly wealth and honour always inviolably attached to superior service. Could religion bring over this baptismal enemy to her standard, he would do the execution of an elephant, I mean, under the management of a steady and skilful hand. Did religion hold forth riches and honour in her left hand, what might she not do with her right!

If a bishop should find a man among his clergy, to whom what I have been saying is but too applicable, it would be well done to let him know, that he is ready to confer rewards on substantial merit, and is ready to inflict canonical disgrace and contempt on the want of it; and that Christ did not labour and die, only that his clergy might live in luxury

A bishop may sometimes meet with one in his diocess who knows not this. I speak charitably, for surely, if he does know it, he deserves, not to be exhorted, but,

In the third place, to be rebuked with all authority. There are several degrees of reproof, whereof a rebuke is the sharpest. Beyond this again, the jurisdiction of a bishop extends, as occasion may require, to public admonitions, sus,

and ease.

[ocr errors]

pensions, degradations, in regard to his clergy, and to excommunication, in regard to both them and the laity.

Although our clergy do generally and greatly stand in need of exhortation, yet, God be thanked, there are but few of them who deserve rebuke. In general their behaviour is regular. The stream of the ministry among us exceeds in purity the waters of that lay morass, from whence it runs (shameful praise !) as much as it did in the primitive times. We are culpable for doing too little good, rather than for criminal liberties. In this I speak the common sense of mankind; but must at the same time confess, that, in the eye of God, and with due regard to the important nature of our office, to be only not wicked, is highly criminal in persons so stationed as we are.

In case however a bishop shall be so unhappy as to see a spot in the assembly of his clergy, it is, no doubt, his duty, either to wash off its blackness, or totally to expunge it. That clergyman who settles on the inveterate lees of his own indolence, or whose spirit of piety, and regard to duty, die down to vapidness, is to be pitied, and, if possible, re-fermented by his bishop to a life and warmth, more becoming the service of an infinite Benefactor and Master. But a profligate clergyman is a monster, which its own mother the church ought to fling out of sight. The laity will never willingly submit to excommunication, while they behold a clergyman giving the sacrament, who is known to be guilty of the same crimes, for which they are forbid to receive it.

Yet excommunication, the inherent discipline of the church, which it exercised under persecution, which it is still permitted to exercise under the present establishment, and to which its power is at present almost absolutely confined, ought to be more frequently applied, than it is, as well to the delinquent laity, as clergy. Communion with the body of Christ is thrown too open, and made too cheap, if a dissolute wretch may, after a long self-excommunication by wilful absence, and perseverance in wickedness, boldly approach the Lord's table, without the smallest tokens of amendment, or any satisfaction given to the church. The dying profligate, who, for whole years, could neither be persuaded nor compelled to come in, thinks he hath nothing to do, but to send for his minister, hear two or three prayers, receive

the sacrament, and so go off to regions of bliss, as secure of a good reception, as the veriest saint. His clergyman is too ready to encourage this fallacious hope by a most insnaring compliance with his desire, in the presence of ten or twenty parishioners, and to the knowledge frequently of a large vicinity. The poor ignorant people think, their clergyman knows perfectly well what ought to be done, and on this occasion does only his duty. Hence it is, that the most immoral and pernicious article of Popery is brought into common prac. tice among us, under the mask of mistaken charity; and the misguided flock are taught by repeated acts to regard it as no great matter what sort of life a man shall lead, provided he can have this benefit of clergy at the close; and so the most sacred ordinances of religion are turned into so many engines of seduction.

There is a loud, but unreasonable cry set up against the spiritual courts, wherein, after all, as much right is done, and far lighter fees exacted, than in any other court whatsoever. But if my lords, the bishops, would oftener personally preside in their own courts, particularly with an eye to the castigation of wickedness, the jurisdiction would soon recover somewhat of its ancient reputation, and, greatly as it is cramped by law, might be turned to very good account, as well in regard to the state, as the church.

The apostle, in my text, expressly charges the bishop to rebuke with all prerogative of command, as Erritayn imports. I need not stay here to prove, after Hooker, King, and Potter, have so fully done it, that the authority of the bishop in rebuking, as well as in his other purely episcopal offices, is the authority of God. “As my Father hath sent me,' saith Christ to his apostles, ‘so send I you;' and so sent they their successors; so sent Paul his Timothy to Ephesus, and his Titus to Crete, to ordain and govern the two lower orders of the church, and to preside over the whole laity, no less than clergy, as must evidently appear to every impartial reader of the three epistles to those bishops.

If then the authority of the bishop is the authority of the Almighty God, what hath a bishop to fear in the faithful discharge of a purely spiritual duty, which, when discharged according to God's word, is set above all human control? Thus thought the humble Ambrose, who had fled from the

[ocr errors][merged small]

episcopal chair as unworthy of it, when he obliged Theodosius the Great to do public penance at Milan for a horrid murder, ere he admitted him to the Lord's table; and thus thought that emperor too in the midst of his triumphs. Thus indeed should every real Christian have still thought, had every bishop, blessed with the knowledge and piety, not to say, courage of an Ambrose, taken care to support, by all parts of his episcopal conduct, the dignity of the place he fills. But unhappily while one bishop shamefully prostituted his spiritual powers, and usurped another set of powers in temporals, of still greater extent, the rest of the bishops in the west, harassed and terrified by continual appeals to this, shrunk themselves, and their sacred function, into a littleness, which hath proved fatal to discipline, and through a decay of discipline, to piety and virtue. So very low hath the opinion of a bishop's authority been brought by these and the like means, that, in our own times, the late bishop of Sodor and Man was thrown into a dungeon, where he was very nigh perishing, for refusing the sacrament to the strumpet of a sorry deputy. The applauses, wherewith that good man hath been loaded by the better sort of people for this act of discipline, as a singular instance of piety and resolution, are the keenest reproaches, ever uttered against the present state of religion, and carry with them a sting, far exceeding in sharpness all the satire and sneer of the Independent Whig, discharged on that bishop and his brethren. What! did he not act as he ought to have done? Did he do more than his duty strictly required? Had he not shewn himself one of the meanest of mankind, and wholly unfaithful to the trust reposed in him, if through fear he had cast the inestimable pearl in his hand before a swine? Who would not have acted as he did : Who would not have rejoiced with the apostles and him for having been thought worthy to suffer shame for his name and honour, who endured the cross for us all? Where then is the exalted singularity of an act which any other bishop, in his place, must, and, I hope, would have performed, as well as he? Why, truly, such actions are seldom seen, and many scandalous offenders are every day admitted to the sacrament. True, but not to the knowledge of our bishops surely. The bishops therefore ought to look down with a sharper

eye on what is doing among us the inferior clergy, for God will call them to an account for those irregularities of ours, which they ought to know, or how otherwise can they apply a remedy in time to come? Besides, we are poor timid creatures, with perhaps a scanty provision of bread, and that often exposed to the ill temper of many, whom strictness in the discharge of our duty, particularly as to suspensions, might offend. We therefore want, or think we want, the countenance of a higher order to support us in matters of discipline. The bishop, vested with a plenitude of divine authority, and, no doubt, for such purposes as these relating to discipline, armed by the constitution of our country with wealth, power, and peerage, might enable us to stand our ground on the canons, and on a rubric backed by an express act of parliament, against all who might expect unreasonable and impious compliances at our hands, were he pleased, by a previous prohibition, to take to himself the honour of an authorized refusal. This, I own, might, now and then, occasion a ruffle ; but is it not better to have a ruffle with men, than with God?

That however the authority of a bishop may be properly supported in the necessary, but offensive duty of rebuking, his dignity is superadded by the apostle, as a buttress, in those remarkable and comprehensive words, . Let no man despise thee.' Let none of thy inferior clergy, nor of the laity, committed to your and their care (for this epistle was to be publickly read in all the churches of Crete) presume, whether exhorted or rebuked, to entertain a despicable idea of one advanced by the providence of God into the place of his Son. Although the abilities, and even behaviour of a man, thus stationed, should not be sufficient to exalt him very high in the esteem of those he is known to, yet when it is considered that he is the delegate and representative of Christ; that he is, under God, the head of many churches; that edification, order, and government, are put into his hands, that he may 'feed the flock of God, go in and out before them,' and separate from them such as are tainted with contagious disorders; and that he is the immediate reservoir, from whence all under him are to derive the word, the sacraments, the benefits of Christ's death, and the benedictions of an infinitely gracious Father; they cannot as

« 前へ次へ »