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“ Well,” said I,“ you are apt to be sanguine in your views, but as I must confess they are very often right, so I will hope you may. not have been deceived in this instance." 1,'.
It so happened that two or three days after this conversation we were taking a walk together, and discussing various topics, such as the present state of things might well suggest, when we met a young man, a neighbour of mine, a mason, who detained us two or three minutes, while he asked my directions about some work he was doing for me. .
. i After he was out of hearing,—" That,” said I, “is one of the most respectable young men I know. Soon after I came here, more than four years ago, he married a young woman of a disposition similar to his own ; and they live in that cottage that you see there, to the right of that row of beeches."
and not altogether seeming pleased at having our conversation thus interrupted. ..". He has two or three little children, and I believe sometimes it goes hard with them, as in the winter work is short hereabouts, and he does not like beating about far from home, I sometimes, tell him he ought to look farther; but he is so fond of his home, his wife and children, that I verily, think he would rather live on potatoes seven days in the week with them, than have meat and beer by himself. And besides, I know he does not relish the companions he must work with at the town. However, on the whole, they do tolerably well, as they have a garden of a fair size, and he never spends an unnecessary penny.?? ... ..in
“ I am glad to hear it,” said he ; “ but we were talking about the value of an apostolical succession in the ministry, were we not? and of the great ignorance and neglect now prevailing on the subject.”... . . . .
., ... We were,” said I;.“ but to tell you the truth, though I have bestowed considerable attention on the subject, and examined the various opinions which have been put forth on it, yet I have
gians, as I have from repeated conversations with that very young man we just now met.”
“ You surprise me,” said he. .
“ You may be surprised, but it is however true, and, (if you have no objection,) I will tell you how it was."
“ By all means,” he answered.
“ When I first came to the parish I looked about for some person to take charge of the Sunday School, as the master was old, and so deaf as to be unequal to the work. I was recommended to apply to Richard Nelson, (that is the man's name,”). - Here my friend interrupted me, saying, “ Richard Nelson ? why, now I remember, that was the very name of the boy I travelled with.” “ Indeed !” said I, “ then doubtless it is the same person: for his age will agree with your account very well, and I know he was bred at - National School.” “Well," said he, “ I am quite delighted to find myself a true prophet in this instance." “ Perhaps," said I, “ you will be still more pleased, when you have heard all I have to tell you : you will find that your little present was by no means thrown away.” “ Go on,” said he, “ I am all attention.”
“I was telling you, I believe, that I requested Nelson to become master of the Sunday School. After some little hesitation, he declined my offer, under the plea that he could not give constant and regular attendance ; though he was willing to attend occasionally, and render what assistance he could. So it was arranged that the old, master should still remain ; and I afterwards discoverd that an unwillingness to deprive him of the little emolument, was Nelson's real reason for declining my offer. As the Sunday School is nearly three-quarters of a mile from my house, in a direction beyond Nelson's, along the Beech Walk, as we call it, it frequently happened that we joined in company as we went to and fro. We generally talked over such subjects as had reference to the School, or to the state of religion in general : and, amongst other topics, that on which you and I are conversing,—the authority of Christian ministers. I remember it was on the following occasion that the subject was started between us. I thought that I had observed one Sunday, that he was making the boys of his class, (our School professes to be on the Bell System,) that he was, I say, making his boys read the nineteenth and some other of the Thirty-nine Articles relating to the ministerial office : and that afterwards he was explaining and illustrating them, after his usual manner, by referring them to suitable parts of Scripture. On our walk homewards, I enquired if I was right in my conjecture. He said, Yes: and that, in the present state of things, he could not help thinking it quite a duty to direct the minds of young persons to such subjects. And on this and many subsequent occasions, he set forth his opinions on the matter, which I will state to you, as far as I can remember, in his own words.
“My good mother,” he said, “ not long before her death, which happened about half-a-year before I came to live here, said to me very earnestly one day, as I was sitting by her bed side,— My dear Richard, observe my words: never dare to trifle with God AlMIGHTY. By this I understood her to mean, that in all religious actions we ought to be very awful, and to seek nothing but what · is right and true. And I knew that she had always disapproved of peoples' saying, as they commonly do, that it little matters what a man's religion is, if he is but sincere;' and that one opinion or one place of worship is as good as another.' To say, or think, or act so, she used to call • Trifling with God's truth: and do you not think, sir, (addressing himself to me, that she was right?"
“ Indeed I do,” said I.
“ And,” he said, “ I was much confirmed in these opinions by constantly reading a very wise, and, as I may say to you, precious
chance when I was going to see my father in the infirmary. It is called a Selection from Bishop Wilson's Works, and there are many places in it which shew what his opinions were on this subject; and I suppose, sir, there can be no doubt that Bishop Wilson was a man of extraordinary judgment and piety.”
“ He has ever been considered so," I answered.
“ I could not think much of any one's judgment or piety either, who should say otherwise,” he replied ; " and what Bishop Wilson says, is this, or to this effect :—That 'to reject the government of Bishops, is to reject an ordinance of God.'”*
That “our salvation depends, under God, upon the ministry of those whom JESUS CHRIST and the Holy Ghost have appointed to reconcile men to God.”+
That “the personal failings of ministers do not make void their commission.” . ,
That “ if the Unity of the Church is once made a light matter, and he who is the centre of Unity, and in CHRIST's stead, shall i s * Sacr. Priy.. + Serm. 38. • Ibid.
come to be despised, and his authority set at nought, then will error and infidelity get ground; JESUS CHRIST and His Gospel will be despised, and the kingdom of Satan set up again here as well as in other nations."* With many other expressions like these.
“ And yet, Sir,” he continued, “ the gentleman who lives over there, (pointing to a great house in sight four or five miles off down the valley,) who is said to be a person of much learning, and who does a great deal of good, he does not take the matter in the same light. For he told a man of whom I was working with, that if a person preached what was right and good, that was the best sign of his being ordained a minister, without the ceremony of laying on a Bishop's hands upon his head. And the man that told me, very much admired the opinion, in regard (he said) of its being so very liberal, or some such word. Though I confess I could not exactly see what there was so much to admire. Because, if the opinion were true, it was good, and if it were false, it was bad, equally as much (to my thinking) whether it were called liberal or bigotted."
“ Doubtless you were right," said I. “ And,” he proceeded,
round in a wheel, to say, If he is God's minister, he preaches what is good; and if he preaches what is good, he is God's minister. For still the question will be, what is right and good ? and some would say one thing and some another ; and some would say there is nothing right nor good at all in itself, but only as seems most expedient to every person for the time being. So for my own satisfaction, and hoping for God's blessing on my endeavour, I resolved to search the matter out for myself as well as I could. My plan was this. First, to see what was said on the subject in the Church Prayer Book, and then to compare this with the Scriptures; and if, after all, I could not satisfy myself, I should have taken the liberty of consulting you, Sir, if I had been here, or Mr. , who was the minister at -- where I came from."
“ Yours was a good plan,” I said ; “ but I suppose you had forgotten that the chief part of the Church Services which relate to these subjects, is not contained in the Prayer Books which we commonly use.” .“ I was aware of that,” he answered, “but my wife's father
* Charge 1721.
had been clerk of parish, and it so happened that the churchwarden had given him a large Prayer Book in which all the Ordination Services were quite perfect, though the book was ancient, and in some parts very ragged. This book my wife brought with her when we came here, and indeed she values it very highly on account of her poor father having used it for -so many years. Thus you see, Sir, with the Bible and Prayer Book, and, (as I hoped,) God's blessing on my labours, I was not, as you may say, unfurnished for the work.” ti " Indeed, Richard, you were not,”' I replied. :.: ; “Well then,” he proceeded, “ I first observed, that the church is very particular in not allowing any administration of the Sacraments, or any public service of ALMIGHTY GOD to take place, except when there is one of her Ministers to guide and take the lead in the solemnity. Thus not only in the administration of Baptism, and of the Lord's Supper, but in the daily Morning and Evening Prayers, in the Public Catechizing of Children, in the Solemnization of Marriage, in the Visitation of the Sick, and in the Burial of the Dead ;--in all these cases the Christian congregation is never supposed complete, nor the service perfect, unless there be also present a minister authorized to lead the devotions of the people. And yet I also observed that neither minister nor people, not even with the leave of the Bishop himself, had power or authority given them to alter or vary from the Rules set down in the Prayer Book. And often have I thought how well it would be if Ministers and people too would be more careful to keep to the rules.”... , - “ Yes,” said I, “it is too true ; we are all to blame.”, si :..“ But,” he proceeded, taking a small Prayer Book out of his pocket, “ the question I had next to ask was, who are meant by these Ministers so often referred to in the Church Service! To this question I found a general answer in the Twenty-third, Twenty-sixth, and Thirty-sixth Articles; where the judgment of the Church is thus plainly given :· Ist. “ That it is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of public preaching, or ministering the Sacraments in the Congregation, before he be lawfully called and sent to execute the same." · 2ndly. “ That those are lawfully called and sent, who are