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any security, if we once begin, that we shall ever end ? Shall not we pass from non-essentials to essentials ? And then, on looking back after the mischief is done, what excuse shall we be able to make for ourselves for having encouraged such proceedings at first? Were there grievous errors in the Prayer Book, something might be said for beginning, but who can point out any ? cannot we very well bear things as they are? does any part of it seriously disquiet us? no—we have before now freely given our testimony to its accordance with Scripture.
But it may be said that “ we must conciliate an outcry which is made; that some alteration is demanded.” By whom? no one can tell who cries, or who can be conciliated. Some of the laity I suppose. Now consider this carefully. Who are these lay persons ? Are they serious men, and are their consciences involuntary hurt by the things they wish altered ? Are they not rather the men you neet in company, worldly men, with little personal religion, of lax conversation and lax professed principles, who sometimes perhaps come to Church, and then are wearied and disgusted ? Is it not so ? You have been dining perhaps with a wealthy neighbour, or fall in with this great Statesman, or that noble Land-holder, who considers the Church two centuries behind the world, and expresses to you wonder that its enlightened members do nothing to improve it. And then you get ashamed, and are betrayed into admissions which sober reason disapproves. You consider too that it is a great pity so estimable or so influential a man should be disaffected to the Church; and you go away with a vague notion that something must be done to conciliate such persons. Is this to bear about you the solemn office of a GUIDE and TEACHER in Israel, or to follow a lead ?
But consider what are the concessions which would conciliate such men. Would immaterial alterations ? Do you really think they care one jot about the verbal or other changes which some recommend, and others are disposed to grant ? whether “ the unseen state” is substituted for “ heil,” “ condemnation” for “ damnation,” or the order of Sunday Lessons is remodelled ? No;—they dislike the doctrine of the Liturgy. These men of the world do not like the anathemas of the Athanasian Creed, and other such peculiarities of our Services. But even were the alterations, which would please them, small, are they the persons
whom it is of use, whom it is becoming to conciliate by going out of our way?
I need not go on to speak against doctrinal alterations, because most thinking men are sufficiently averse to them. But, I earnestly beg you to consider whether we must not come to them, if we once begin. For by altering immaterials, we merely raise without gratifying the desire of correcting; we excite the craving, but withhold the food. And it should be observed, that the changes calleil immaterial often contain in themselves the germ of some principle, of which they are thus the introduction. E. G. If we were to leave out the imprecatory Psalms, we certainly countenance the notion of the day, that love and love only is in the Gospel the character of Almighty God and the duty of regenerate man; whereas that Gospel, rightly understood, shows His Infinite Holiness and Justice as well as His Infinite Love; and it enjoins on men the duties of zeal towards Him, hatred of sin, and separation from sinners, as well as that of kindness and charity.
To the above observations it may be answered, that changes have formerly been made in the Services without leading to the issue I am predicting now; and therefore they may be safely made again. But, waving all other remarks in answer to this argument, is not this enough, viz. that there is peril? No one will deny that the rage of the day is for concession. Have we not already granted (political) points, without stopping the course of innovation? This is a fact. Now, is it worth while even to risk fearful changes merely to gain petty improvements, allowing those which are proposed to be such ?
We know not what is to come upon us; but the writer for one will try so to acquit himself now, that if any irremediable calamity befalls the Church, he may not have to vex himself with the recollections of silence on his part and indifference, when he might have been up and alive. There was a time when he, as well as others, might feel the wish, or rather the temptation, of steering a middle course between parties ; but if so, a more close attention to passing events has cured his infirmity. In a day like this there are but two sides, zeal and persecution, the Church and the world; and those who attempt to occupy the ground between thein, at best will loose their labour, but probably will be drawn back to the latter. Be practical, I respectfully urge you; do not attempt impossibilities ; sail not as if in pleasure boats upon a troubled sea. Not a word falls to the ground, in a time like this. Speculations about ecclesiastical improvements which might be innocent at other times, have a strength of mischief now. They are realized before he who utters them understands that he has committed himself.
Be prepared then for petitioning against any alterations in the Prayer Book which may be proposed. And, should you see that our Fathers the Bishops seem to countenance them, petition still. Petition them. They will thank you for such a proceeding. They do not wish these alterations ; but how can they resist them without the support of their Clergy? They consent to them, (if they do,) partly from the notion that they are thus pleasing you. Undeceive them. They will be rejoiced to hear that you are as unwilling to receive them as they are. However, if after all there be persons determined to allow some alterations, then let them quickly make up their minds how far they will go. They think it easier to draw the line elsewhere, than as things now exist. Let them point out the limit of their concessions now; and let
least firm, and have at last come right.