« PreviousContinue »
he will accord with the inspired writers, and the more he will approve of the views of our Reformers. . I do not mean however to say, that a slight alteration in two or three instances would not be an improvement, since it would take off a burthen from many minds, and supersede the necessity of laboured explanations : but I do mean to say, that there is no such objection to these expressions as to deter any conscientious person from giving his unfeigned assent and consent to the Liturgy altogether, or from using the particular expressions which we have been endeavouring to explain.”*
A strong objection has often been made to the indiscriminate use of the Burial Service. “ The expression in the Burial Service,” says an anonymous writer, in his remarks on Mr. Simeon's Sermons on the Liturgy, (Chris. Ob. for Sept. 1812,) " of our sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life,' which he (Mr. S.) admits, according to the spirit of the words, to imply our sure and certain hope that the soul of the person about to be committed to the grave, will rise to eternal life, and the direct assertion of our hope that he rests in Christ, and our thanksgiving to God, for having taken his soul to himself—are a stumbling block to many members of the Church, and bave a tendency to produce this error, than which, few can be more pernicious,—that whatever a man's life may have been, yet if he die in communion with the Church his case is hopeful.” Let us hear Mr. Simeon's defence. « In our burial service we thank God for delivering our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world, and express a sure and certain hope of the Resurrection
Sermons on the Liturgy, p.p. 51, 52, which work the Reader may consult
to eternal life, together with a hope also that our departed brother rests in Christ. Of course it often happens that we are called to use these expressions over persons who, there is reason to fear, have died in their sips, and the question is, How we can with propriety use them? I answer, that even according to the letter of the words, the use of them may be justified, because we speak not of his, but of the resurrection to eternal life; and because, while we do not absolutely know that God has not pardoned a person, we may entertain some mea. sure of hope that he has. But taking the expressions more according to the spirit of them, they precisely accord with what we continually read in the Epistles of St. Paul. In the first Epistle to the Corinthian Church, he says of them, • I thank my God always on your behalf, that in every thing ye are enriched by him in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you : so that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yet does he instantly begin to condemn the same persons for their divisions and contentions, and afterwards tells them that they were carnal, and walked not as saints, but as men ;' that is, as unconverted and ungodly men.”*
“ Against the last of these prayers,” says Mr. Wheatly, “ it is often objected, we make declaration of Hope that all we bury are saved. In order to appease the scruples about which, as far as the nature of the expression will bear; we desire it may be considered, that there are very different degrees of hope, the lowest of which is but one remove from despair. Now, there are but very few
• Sermons on the Liturgy, p. 46.
with whom we are concerned, that die in a state so utterly desperate, as that we may positively affirm they are damned; which yet we might do, did we absolutely and entirely despair of their salvation; and this seems sufficient to warrant this declaration, especially if it be pronounced as faintly as the hope itself is entertained. However, it must be confessed, that it is very plain, from the whole tenor of this office, that the compilers of it, presuming upon a due exercise of discipline, never supposed that any would be offered to Christian Burial, who had not led Christian lives. But since iniquity hath so far prevailed over the discipline of the Church, that Schismatics, Heretics, and all manner of vicious livers, escape its censures; this gloss seems the best that our present circumstances will admit of. And if it be not satisfactory, there seems to be no other remedy left, than that our governors should leave us to a discretionary use of these expressions, either till they be altered by public authority; or, which is much rather to be wished, till discipline be so vigorously exercised, that there be no offence in the use of them."*
• Mr. Wheatly, of the Order for the Burial of the Dead, Chap. XII, Sect 1.
RITES AND USAGES OF THE UNITED CHURCH
OF ENGLAND AND IRELAND.
We come to those Rites and Usages by which the United Churches is distinguished from the Church of Scotland, and from the Churches of the Dissenters in England. One of the most striking distinctions is the Ceremony of Consecration, or the setting apart in a solemn man. ner, those edifices which are erected for the public ordinances of religion. In the Church of Scotland when edifices of this kind are finished, they are immediately taken possession of, and the ordinary offices of religion performed, without any formal dedication, or any other ceremony than that to which, every Lord's day, the Con. gregation are accustomed. The celebration of the mysteries of religion in general, is the only office of sanctity by which their Churches are recognized as more sacred than buildings that are reared for the ordinary habitations of men. The Meeting-houses of Dissenters in England, with this difference that they are built without steeples, are in the same manner, when finished, applied to the purposes of religion without any adventitious solemnity, Some of the Dissenters have said that the holiness of stone and timber is a mystery by much too sublime for their understandings to comprehend. When a Church or Chapel, on the establishment of the United Kingdom, is finished, before any other office of religion is performed in it, it is, by the solemn consecration of a Bishop, after VOL. II.
a prescribed form, dedicated to God and appropriated to his service. “ We know no reason wherefore Churches should be the worse, if at the first erecting of them, at the making of them public, at the time when they are delivered, as it were, into God's own possession, and when the use whereunto they shall ever serve is established, ceremonies fit to betoken such intents, and to accompany such actions be usual, as in the purest times they have been. When Constantine had finished an House for the service of God at Jerusalem, the Dedication he judged a matter not unworthy, about the solemn performance whereof, the greatest part of the Bishops in Christendom should meet together. Which thing they did at the Emperor's motion, each most willingly setting forth that action to their power, some with orations, some with sermons, some with the sacrifice of prayers unto God for the peace of the world, for the Church's safety, for the Emperor's and his children's good. By Athanasius the like is recorded concerning a Bishop of Alexandria, in a work of the like devout magnificence. So that whether Emperors or Bishops in those days were Church. founders, the solemn Dedication of Churches they thought not to be a work in itself either vain or superstitious. Can we judge it a thing seemly, for any man to go about the building of a House to the God of Heaven, with no other appearance, than if his end were to rear up a kitchen, or parlour, for his own use ? Or when a work of such nature is finished, remaineth there nothing but presently to use it, and so an end ? It behoveth that the place where God shall be served by the whole Church, be a public place, for the avoiding of privy conventicles, which, covered with pretence of religion, may serve unto dangerous practices.--Finally, it (the Conse.