« PredošláPokračovať »
courses were formerly preached at sundry times, and are now collected and published, for the purpose of exhibiting, under various aspects, her religious claims to the veneration and affection of the people of this Kingdom, and of thereby encouraging a reasonable and conscientious, a continual and undeviating, attachment to her communion.
For it is by such means as these, Madam, that as the intrinsick character and the proper claims of the Church are to be set forth, so a foundation is to be laid for a firm and enduring attachment to her. He, who from a mere regard to her connection with the State, should attach himself to her communion, would on the failure of such an inducement be prone to think scorn of her, and to fall away. Not so those better instructed and consistent children of the Church, whose affection is based upon a conviction of the conformity of her constitution and provisions to the will and word of God. Of persons such as these the attachment would be equally firm and enduring, under any change and variety of her worldly circumstances, for better or for worse : though the authority of her native Episcopacy should be again suffered by the State to be usurped by a foreign Hierarch, or to be set at nought and trodden under foot by a host of sectarian innovators ; and though her Liturgy, the matured fruit of the collective piety and wisdom of her venerable Reformers, should be by the State again compelled to make way
for the missal of Romish superstition and idolatry, or for the meagre and latitudinarian directory of the disciples of Geneva.
It has pleased God, Madam, in his wisdom, to dispense evil as well as good to the Anglican Reformed Church. With lively gratitude we bear in mind the prosperous days of her deliverance from Romish corruption, and of her establishment in primitive purity, during the reign of King Edward the Sixth, of blessed memory; of her reestablishment under the patronage of that great Nursing-mother of the Church, your Majesty's most illustrious predecessor, Queen Elizabeth, and her continued peace under the fostering care of the succeeding well-learned and discriminating Monarch ; and, again, of her restoration, together with the Crown, in whose profanation and downfal she had partaken, to her rightful eminence and dignity in a later age. But with these, her days of prosperity, have alternated days of suffering: first, when her protestant faith was attempted to be exterminated by the fires of papal persecution ; and her holy martyrs, calumniated, reviled, impoverished, disgraced, degraded, were delivered over to the secular power, to bear testimony to the truth by their blood : and again, when her apostolical polity was abolished by schismatical violence, and superseded by new devices of man's invention ; when her divinely-commissioned ministers were despoiled of their property and banished from their homes; and her scriptural forms of worship were prohibited with a penalty of mulct and imprisonment, even under the shelter of obscurity, and in the privacy of domestick seclusion: and again, when arbitrary power, in the person of a Popish Sovereign, again looked upon her with an evil eye, and gave a foretaste of its evil purposes by dispensing with the laws enacted for her safeguard ; and visiting her spiritual fathers, who refused to be the matricidal instruments of his tyranny, with charges of disloyalty and sedition, with actual imprisonment, with an oppressive prosecution as criminals, and with menaces of ulterior punishment.
Through such alternations, Madam, of secular elevation and depression, of temporal joy and mourning, our National Church has passed, and may haply pass again. For it is no unreasonable anticipation, that, blessed as she has for the most part been since her last deliverance, and under the rule of your Majesty's august family, with peace and prosperity, she may at no distant period by God's inscrutable providence be called upon to suffer another trial of affliction, when “the hedge of his vine shall again be broken down, so that all they who go by may pluck off her grapes; that the wild boar out of the wood may root it out, and the wild beast of the field devour it.”
Still in every variety of outward circumstances, Madam, the spiritual character of the Church, and her spiritual claims, have at all times remained, and do and will remain, the same. And, as she has experienced heretofore, so by God's continued blessing she will doubtless again experience, in the severest trials, the hearty affection and the strong attachment of her faithful children : of those who estimate her value, and judge of her pretensions, not from regard to any external transitory accidents of worldly honour or dishonour, of secular good or evil; but from a contemplation of her essential excellence, resulting from the Apostolical, Primitive, and Catholick character by God's mercy impressed upon her, and attested by her Polity, her Doctrines, the Commission of her Ministers, her dispensation of the Sacraments, and her Forms of Divine Worship.
These, then, Madam, are the topicks, to which attention is directed in the following pages; with the humble hope, that they may by the Divine blessing contribute to strengthen those, who shall peruse them, in attachment to the Church, as God's appointed instrument of their own salvation; and by natural consequence to make them solicitous for her maintenance, in her character of the Church established by law in this Kingdom, as the most efficacious means for promoting true Christianity, and the happiness therewith associated, in their countrymen at large.
To be, under God, the guardian of such a Church