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ship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." If,

1 Ps. cxix 103, 2 Matt. xxiv. 14. 3 Kom. xvi. 16.

* See 1 Cor. i. 10; 2 Tim. i. 13; 1 Tim. vi. 3-5; Pvom. xvi. IT; 1
Cor. xii. 12-27 ; Eph. iv. 3-6.
s John xvii. 20-23. a Acts ii. 42.

68 OUR vows.

in any company, therefore, of Christians professing to
be a Church, the doctrine taught be not the doctrine
of the Apostles, or if the sacraments be not duly ad-
ministered among them by ministers laicfully called
and rightly ordained^ a body so constituted may not
be considered a true, sound branch of Christ's Church.

Here the question meets us, How far, as touching
our soul's salvation, is it necessary to belong to a true
and pure branch of Christ's holy Church? The ques-
tion cannot be answered positively. We cannot de-
clare with certainty how much of the whole truth is
necessary to man's salvation. We can only say that
any departure from the truth must be dangerous ; any
departure from the truth separates us from some pre-
cious help and safeguard, weakens some wholesome
restraint, loses us some grace, and makes the work of
acquiring such a holy and Christian character, as shall
fit us for heaven, more and more difficult. We can
only point out to men, that for those who hold the en-
tire truth, and who hold that truth in righteousness,
there is a certainty of salvation ; but it is not for us
to take upon ourselves the office of judges, or to pro-
nounce sentence upon them who differ from us in their
appreciation of that truth.

As regards the Church of England, or the Episcopal
Church in the United States, each is the one true
branch of Christ's Catholic Church in her country ;
and we would lovingly persuade all others who may
have separated from her to join her pure communion,
for we believe that all who live godly and Christian
lives according to her rule shall certainly be saved.
But further than this we may not go, either to the one
hand or to the other. At the end it shall be known


fully who are God's people, and who shall hear the
fearful words, " Depart from Me : I never knew

This, however, may be added, and this warning
should be given ; that if any man who is fully per-
suaded in his own mind of the truth of the Church's
teaching, does deliberately, from some inferior motive,
from pride, or pique, or self-interest, or the like, aban-
don the Church and join himself to some one of the
many sects, he must do so at the very serious risk (to
say the least) of his soul's salvation. It is not to be
forgotten that there is such a sin as the sin of schism
— a sin very gravely spoken about in Holy Scripture :
"heresies," be it remembered, are numbered by St.
Paul^ among those sins of the flesh which must shut
men out from any inheritance in the kingdom of God,
and the connection between schism and heresy is, in
many instances, very dangerously close.^ It behooves
men, therefore, to examine themselves, and to see
whether they are guiltless in the sight of God in this
respect. We may not constitute ourselves their judges ;
but they are called upon to judge themselves,^ that
they may escape the judgment of God hereafter.
Many men forget the important truth, that we must as

1 Matt. vii. 23. 2 Ga!. v. 20.

3 Heresy (which is derived from a Greek word signifying " choice")
is a wilful adoption of opinions which are contrary to the teaching of
the Apostles and the universal Church. Schism (which signifies "di-
vision") is separating one's self from the communion of the Church on
account of some variance in matters of faith or practice. Schism and
heresy, in too many cases, follow unavoidably each on the other's
steps. One guilty of heresy usually becomes a schismatic. And it is
scarcely possible for a schismatic to avoid heresy in either a less or
greater degree.

* 1 Corrxi.31.


certainly answer for the faults and errors of our mind
and intellect, as we must be judged for the sins pro-
duced of our fleshy lusts and appetites.

One other remark may be made, — which is this :
there may be cases, there certainly have been cases,
wherein from some unhappy circumstances, — from lack
of church accommodation, or what not, — persons have
imited themselves to some other body of professed
Christians. But in such cases the want of communion
with the Church should be regarded as a serious mis-
fortune ; and whenever the oppoi'tunity offers^ when the
hindrance is removed, persons should feel it to be their
lounden duty to retuTii at once to the Church,

With what feelings, indeed, should men regard their
Chm'ch ? Should it not be with the deepest love and
reverence ? We love all else that men count dear.
Who does not love his home and his own fireside?
Why, then, is there no corresponding feeling for our
Church and for our name of Churchmen? Is that
place nothing to us, where first we were presented un-
to Christ and first called Christians, infants as we
were, fresh from the Baptismal waters? Have those
walls no tender place within our memories which wit-
ness to our Confirmation vows, and which shall ever
hereafter remind us of that solemn hour when, with
high hopes and expectations and with hearts that burn-
ed within us, we did solemnly dedicate ourselves, our
souls and bodies, to the service of our God? Has
that quiet resting-place no claim upon our love, where
sleep the ashes of departed friends? Are there no
cords of love which, springing thence and circling
round our hearts, do bind us with the hope that at the
end of our days ourselves may rest beside those treas-


ures bnried out of sight ? Have those holy services
and so solemn litanies which continually arise within
the church's walls, — endeared to us as they should be
by the memory that for years and years gone by our
fathers and their ancestors have sought in these same
words the Saviour's presence, — have these no place
within our hearts' affections ? Can it be that these are
otherwise than sacred to our memories and feelings?
Why should any turn away from these ? why speak
slightingly of them ? why desert them for some strange
commimion hallowed by no such tender reminis-
cences? And if it be objected that "the Church,"
that is, the society of Christians which we call the
Church, consists not in the building, or its sacred pre-
cincts, or in these forms of worship ; it may be allow-
ed at once that this is true : it does not consist in these.
And yet we cannot separate these two things — these
externals which belong to the Church's service and
the actual inward reality of Church-membership. For
our presence in that building which we call the church,
our assembling ourselves together there, our joining in
those services, our receiving those holy ordinances
there administered, are the proofs and witnesses (and,
ordinarily speaking, there can be no other proof) that
outwardly and in profession at least we are members
of that body, called "the Church," to which these
things pertain. Eefraining from these, withdrawing
ourselves from them, what proofs can we produce of
our fellowship with the Church ? or how can we sup-
pose that we are members of it ?

Nay, let us ever cling to, let us ever stand fast by,
let us ever love our Church. Let us pray that she may
be like a tree planted by the water-side, flourishing in

72 ouK vows.

its bccauty, bringing forth fruit in due season, as she
prospers in whatsoever she doeth. Through evil re-
port and good report let us show ourselves her devo-
ted, faithful members ; steadfastly believing that she is
indeed a true branch of Christ's Holy Catholic and
Apostolic Church, — that she is " built upon the foun-
dation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Him-
self being the chief Corner-stone.'"

The Article of which we have just spoken is very fitly
followed by that in which we express our belief in the
" communion of saints ;" for in this last we call to mind,
that although the Church is Catholic, spread abroad
throughout the world ; although Christians differ in
race, in language, in country, in habits, yet there is, or
alas ! we must rather say, there should be, some com-
mon tie — the confession of one faith, the looking to
one Saviour, the union with one Divine Head, being
animated with one hope, being blessed with the same
glorious privileges — which may bind them all together
in one common bond of. love and fellowship. If there
be wanting any proof of the immeasurable evil which
arises out of schism, it may be seen too plainly evi-
denced in the effects of that broken communion which
exists in Christendoni ; in that want of harmony and
peace, in that strife and discord and bitter uncharita-
bleness which has destroyed the unity, and consequent-
ly the strength, and which so fatally mars the useful-
ness, of the Church of Christ !

Why is it that the Gospel does not take a deeper
root, and fill the land in heathen countries ? Why is
there speech or language throughout the world where
the Gospel's voice is not plainly heard? Is it not

1 Ephes. ii. 20.


cliiefly owing to the discords that exist among Chris-
tians themselves? Because they are not "perfectly
joined together"^ in the work, because they are not of
one mind, because they do not speak the same thing,
because they are not " at peace among themselves,"^
therefore is the work so sorely let and hindered ; there-
fore is the tree that should be flourishing in its beauty
and bearing fruit a hundredfold, too often like a " ten-
der plant, and as a root out of a dry ground.'" Let
all Christians lay this well to heart. Let each one
strive to do what little he may towards healing the
wounds which have marred the unity of the Church.
At least, let all pray for the peace of the Church ;
remembering, too, that they shall prosper who do
love her.

Not that the communion of saints is lost. We de-
clare our faith in a reality. They are children of one
great family, they are fellow-citizens of the heavenly
Jerusalem, they belong unto the household of God.
They rejoice together in their present blessings, in their
high privileges, in their divinely imparted strength.
They rejoice together as they live happy in the light
of God's glorious countenance, in the consciousness of
His continual presence with them and of His fatherly
protection ; happy in their sense of that communion
which exists between themselves and the Father of
their spirits;^ happy, too, beyond all words, in their
patient waiting — in their waiting with the holy dead,
with them who have gone before and who " sleep in
Jesus" (for with these, also, we are joined in a most

1 1 Cor. i. 10. 2 1 Thess. v. 13. 3 Isa. liii. 2.

4 See 1 John i. 3 ; John xvii. 21, xiv. 23 ; 1 John iii. 23, 24: ; John vl.
56; 2 Cor, 13, 14: 1 Cor. iii. 16.

74 ouK vows.

real bond of fellowship) — in their waiting for that
hour when this present communion shall he more fully
realized, when they shall "seethe King in his beauty,'"
when they " shall know even as also they are known,'"
when they shall pass the everlasting doors in safet}^,
and stand before His throne at whose "right hand
there is pleasure for evermore."^

Next we confess our belief in " the forgiveness of
sins." See from the following texts how fully and un-
mistakably God declares His merciful intentions to-
wards unhappy sinners : 1 Tim. i. 15; Matt, xviii. 11-
14, ix. 10-1.3, xi. 28-30; Luke xv.

In another place our Lord's words are : " All manner
of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men ; but
the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be
forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word
against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him ; but
whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall
not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in
the world to come."* For every sin, therefore, that
men may commit, there is pardon and forgiveness
offered at our merciful Father's hands, save for the one
unpardonable offence, the sin against the Holy Ghost.
Let a few words be said about this. None who believe
in our Lord Jesus Christ can commit it.

The sin against the Holy Ghost is either apostasy —
falling away from the faith, abandoning that which we
have once held — or steadily and wilfully rejecting and
denying the Christian faith after it has been plainly
and evidently presented to our minds. And in speak-
ing of this as being unpardonable, we are to remem-
ber that it is not so much that God loill not, as that

J Isa. xxxiii. 17. » 1 Cor. \\\\. 12. s pg. xyj. n. 4 Matt. xii. 31.


He can not pardon it. There is but one way of salva-
tion open to us. The merits of Jesus Christ, which
we lay hold of by faith, are the only means whereby
we may be saved. If a man, therefore, examines and
considers this one way, and then calmly and delib-
erately refuses it, he shuts himself out from salvation.
God offers him salvation in this way, but this he re-
jects; and there being no other way open to him, and
none other name under heaven given among men
" whereby he can be saved than the name of Jesus
Christ,"^ it foUow^s of necessity, that in rejecting this
one Saviour he throws away his only hope, and so in-
evitably must be lost. By his own act he excludes
himself from the possibility of forgiveness and salvation.

Jews sinned against the Holy Ghost by rejecting the
miracles wrought by the power of the Holy Ghost.
As these miracles — signs of* the divine power and
presence — were the highest evidence our Lord could
offer the Jews that he was Messiah, sent of God ; by
rejecting these proofs and ascribing them to the devil,
we may say, they made it impossible that they should
be saved.

But still further, why is this rejection of the faith
called a sin against the Holy Ghost ? and why does our
Lord declare that to speak against the Son of Man
shall be forgiven, but to speak against the Holy Ghost
shall not be forgiven ? Because, 1. The One who shall
teach men all things, who shall guide them into all
truth, the One through whom spiritual things are re-
vealed unto us, is none other than the Holy Ghost.
In rejecting the truth, therefore, we resist and grieve
and do despite unto that Spirit of grace. Because, 2.

1 Acts iv. 12.

76 OUR vows.

The teaching of our blessed Lord was not so plain and
unmistakable, but that men might be forgiven if they
missed the truth He taught. Christ spake in parables
of the mysteries of the kingdom of God/ Men were
not guiltless, indeed, of all sin in disbelieving Him.^
For His " very works' sake'" they ought to have be-
lieved. But disbelieving Christ's mysterious teaching
was not the same thing as rejecting that clearer rev-
elation of the truth, and that greater light which was
shed abroad upon the coming of the Holy Ghost ; it
did not betray so hopeless a state of wilfulness and
obstinacy on the part of unbelievers. Our Lord's
doctrine was not so clear and easy to understand, but
that the time should come when the truth might be
set more plainly still before men's minds. This plain,
direct, positive, unmistakable teaching did follow
upon the gift of the Holy Ghost. Then the truth was
so plainly taught, that no teaching could possibly be
plainer. If men, therefore, rejected this plain teach-
ing of the Holy Ghost, there were no means left
whereby the truth could be more clearly demonstrated
1;o their hearts and minds. God had then done all for
them that could be done ; there was no more power-
ful engine left for their conversion ; and if they still
turned a deaf ear to the pleadings of the Holy Spirit,
as He strove to bring home to their, minds a conviction
of the truth, if they would be "like the deaf adder
that stoppeth her ears, which will not hearken to the
voice of charmers, charming never so wisely," there
could be nothing for it but that they should be left to
their own devices, to the foolish imaginations of their
own hearts, and so be lost. Thus we may regard the

1 Mark iv. 11, 12. '^ John xv. 22. « Ibid. xiv. 11.


sentence pronounced n^:>on this sin against the Holy
Ghost as being not an act of severity on the part of
God, however well deserved such severity might be,
but a necessary unavoidable result of man's own wil-
fulness. It is man's own folly in obstinately rejecting
the forgiveness and salvation which God so freely and
graciously offers to him.

For every sin, therefore, which weak erring men
may commit, there is forgiveness offered, save for that
one unpardonable offence of which we have spoken,
and for which we need not say there shall not 5e, but
rather there cannot he forgiveness. Still, we are ever
to bear in mind that forgiveness is offered to us, of
God's mercy, only on certain conditions. What these
conditions are St. Paul declared when he testified,
"both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance
towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus
Christ."^ The conditions upon which God is willing
to forgive us for Jesus Christ's sake are repentance
and faith. Let something be said about each of these.

Kepentance is not only a feeling of sorrow for the
past, but it is also a desire to amend in the future. It
is in its strict sense " a change of mind." It is a feel-
ing which causes us to sorrow over our sins, and to
endeavor to amend them, not only in consequence of
the punishment to fall on us on account of those sins,
but far more because of the offence and grief these are
to God, — to our Father^ to One who is so good and
loving to us, to One who has done so much for us. It
is the mourning of a heart which has become sensible
of the great love of God, and which is yearning to re-
turn that love. It is a sorrowful conviction that sin

1 Acts XX. 21.



makes ns vile and iinciean in tlie sight- of God, that
tlirongh our sinfuhiess we are unfit to serve IJiin, and
incapable of rendering Ilini any perfect or fitting obe-
dience. This is the spirit and the essence of a true
repentance. But as in the matter of repentance it is
very easy for us to be deceived, let three plain proofs
or marks be added whereby we may know whether we
be sincere in our professed repentance or not. First,
if we are really penitent we shall carefully avoid all
occasion and opportunity of sin ; we shall, as far as pos-
sible, Tceep ourselves out of the way of temptation. If
we are earnest in our repentance we shall examine our-
selves ; we shall sift our past lives in the presence of
God, and find out what are our besetting sins. Then
we shall trace these sins to their spring and fountain-
head. We shall first say to ourselves, "What have
I done wrong?" and then, "How came I to do this?
What tempted me to do this evil?" We shall en-
deavor to call to mind what chain of circumstances
brought about our fall ; what motives, what desires,
what company, what business caused our sins. And
then if we are sincere we shall lay the axe to these
roots of our sins, we shall give these up, we shall avoid
them and flee from them. Never mind how pleasant
or agreeable these may be, or even how seemingly
necessary ; never mind at what pain or sacrifice to our
feelings we may be acting; if we are in earnest, and if
our repentance be a true repentance, we shall at once
and honestly and entirely abandon all those things
which our experience teaches us lead to sin.

To put this in a very plain way, let it be said, for
instance, what right has any man who has given way
to the sin of drunkenness, and who pretends to lament


that sin, — what right has such a one to set his foot
within a public-house? He knows that he cannot re-
sist temptation; what right, then, has he to expose
himself to such temptation ? Or what right has some
young man, who is painfully conscious of the weakness
of his character, and of his inabilit j to refuse to follow
when others lead the waj to sin, — what right has such
a one to be with companions who (as he is very well
aware) will draw him into evil ? Or what right have
young women to be in such places or such positions —
alone, unprotected, away from their parents' eye — as
shall expose them to the opportunity of sin ? What
right have they to speak of virtue or of modesty, when
they bring those graces unblushingly face to face with
sin? or how may they, with any truth, deplore the
loss of these and speak of penitence, while yet with
wilful folly they expose themselves to strong tempta-
tion? No. Let it be well borne in mind that our
repentance is only worthless and delusive, unless with
our professed sorrow for past sin we join a very care-
ful watchfulness to avoid (as far as possible) every
temptation and every opportunity of offending against
God's holy law. Christ's precept must be our rule of
life : " If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and
cast it from thee. If -thy right hand offend thee, cut
it off", and cast it from thee : for it is profitable for thee
that one of thy members should perish, and not thai
thy whole body should be cast into hell."^

A second proof of the truth and sincerity of ou>
repentance is a willingness on our parts to make rep-
aration for our fault, — to make (as it is said in th«5
exhortation used in the Service f©r the Communion)
1 Matt V. 29.

80 OUR vows.

"restitution and satisfaction according to the utter-
most of our powers." "We are not indeed to imagine,
■when we speak of making reparation for our faults,
that any after act of ours can do away the guilt of our
sin, or can wash our souls from its stain. Nothing
that we can do may effect this. If we had sinned but
once in all our lives, and then for years and years had
lived in ways of godliness and virtue, the strictness of
our later life could never efface that one single stain.
To blot out our iniquities from the book of God's re-
membrance is the work — and His only — of the Lamb
of God, that taketh away the sins of the world. Yet
while w^e cannot do away the sin itself, it is our posi-
tive duty to endeavor to repair the consequences of
our sin ; and if we are really penitent we shall willingly
and faithfully discharge that duty.

A common example will make this plain. A person,
■we ■will suppose, has stolen a sum of money ; and after
he has committed the theft, his conscience begins to
smite him, and he feels guilty and unhappy. But dare
such a one come before God, w^ith that money still in
his possession, and bewail himself and pray forgive-
ness ? No, surely not. He were a liar and a hypo-
crite in the eyes of a just God if he acted so. But
if when his conscience smote him he did straightway
turn unto the person he had robbed, and with humble
confession of his fault did restore the stolen property,
then might he afterwards appear in the presence of God :
not indeed as guiltless; not as if the restoring the
money had wiped out the guilt of stealing it : nay, he
comes before God a thief, and Confessing himself a
thief; but yet & penitent one, and one, therefore, ■who
may hear the same gracious words of pardon addressed


to him as did the thief upon the cross. This is an
instance of what is meant by making reparation for our
sin. And it must be perfectly evident that without it,
in the case described, the pretended repentance could
not have been real. In like manner, persons who have
wilfully and knowingly slandered their neighbor, must
confess and retract such slanders. He who has de-
frauded any one, must restore his ill-gotten gains. He
who has done any wrong, must (if possible) undo that
wrong before his professed repentance can be accept-
able in the sight of God.

And if it be thought that this is a very hard rule, a
very hard condition to fulfil, one that men would not
readily submit to or carry out — yes, it must be an-
swered, it is a very hard rule, and one that man, unas-
sisted by Divine grace, never could act up to. But
learn from this two things : First, that true repentance
is no easy matter (as Satan so often tempts men to
believe it is), it is no light work to be undertaken at
any moment, and to be carried on without any pain or
trouble ; on the contrary, the path of true penitence
is diflicult and rugged, narrow and strait ; and, alas !
few there be that persevere along it to the end. Sec-
ondly, learn that true repentance is the gift of God,*
and must be sought for at His merciful hands. True
repentance is the work of Divine grace in a man's
heart. To " bring forth fruits meet for repentance"

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Online LibraryRichard LowndesOur vows : a work to be read in preparation for baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist → online text (page 5 of 8)