« PreviousContinue »
to the beggarly elements of a typical dispensation, and contending, not for the faith once delivered to the saints, but for ceremonial observances already declared by God Himself to have been done away with.
And this very plain declaration of St. Paul denudes this miserable “Church” of all its sacred character, and lays it open to discussion by the common people—the profanevulgar, as they have been proverbially called. And more than this, its " foolish” character strips it of those arrogant pretensions it has so often made to an amount of mystic loro far too profound for the range of ordinary minds. The fence of awful sacredness and mystery is not only broken down, but common sense—the average mind of the masses—is by implication admitted to the lists. It will not do to say that we are laying unhallowed hands upon the Ark: for the Ark is not there! This “Church” of Ritualism, of ceremonies, of dead forms and dogmas, of witchery, of apostolical succession, and of deference in things spiritual to human authority -to men who seemed to be somewhat, but of whom Paul says, with a manly nonchalance, “Whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me,"—this Church, being no church at all, we may deal with as we please, without putting off a shoe, or cowering before the power of the keys."
Nay, but, say some, this Ritualism is no unmeaning thing: it has a deep and earnest heart in it; it symbolises the great mysteries of Redemption. We deny it altogether. It might have done so three thousand years ago, but all it can now point to is a barren future
“Darkness there, and nothing more.” O foolish Ritualists! who hath bewitched you, that you should look for the earnest only, when you might banquet on the full fruition? Unwittingly, perhaps, but literally and palpably, you have turned your backs on the Redeemer, whose
eyes of loving rebuke are looking on you, not from the Future, but the Past. From this Past, also, a voice addresses you, as angels and archangels, and all the glorious company of the redeemed, do homage to the full-orbed
Royalty of Jesus—“This Man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sin for ever, sat down on the right hand of God, froin henceforth expecting, till his enemies be made his footstool; for by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."
This plea of a suggestive character—an earnest meaning -must, therefore, not avail the Ritualist. A prophecy after the fact-a promise of good things gone by, is at best a "foolish" thing. Can we suppose that Paul saw no meaning in the beautiful ceremonials he is here denouncing, so long as they were confined to their proper time and place in the grand economy of Redemption ? How lovingly he dwells upon them in his wonderful letter the Hebrews; and how, till the greater glory of the Gospel dawned upon the world, he clung to their golden memories, so firmly as to wish himself accursed for the sake of his dear kindred, whose prerogative they had been so long ! But now, they were nothing but weak and beggarly elements, shutting off his view of Jesus, and not only forming no part of his Gospel, but diametrically antagonistic to it.
Let us now see why Paul calls the Ritualists the foolish Church.
I. IT IS FOOLISH IN ITS ORIGIN. Its very foundation was laid in a Great Mistake. It is based on an Apostolic Protest. I stand in doubt of you ; I am afraid of you ; I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.
These are certainly not very promising indications of a sound and healthy church.
A“ church”-s0 called-of whom Paul stood in doubt; of whose practices he declared himself afraid, and for the very conversion of whose teachers he still agonized in spirit, would certainly have been no model church, even had its foundations been well and wisely laid. But look at these! The entire fabric rests upon, and springs out of, a moral hallucination-a psychological hocus-pocus. It is galvanized into life by the wand of a mountebank ! The word, too,
which our translators have r-ndered “bewitched” has a secondary meaning, equivalent to “glandered” or “traduced," as though Paul would say, 0 foolish Galatians ! who can have invented such innuendos; who can have alleged such childish things against you? Yet these silly practices have been exalted into precedents for that “pernicious nonsense against which the common voice of humanity is beginning to cry out.
II. Foolish IN ITS IDEA OF THE SUSTAINING ENERGY OF THE CHURCH. Its inspiration is bewitchment ; the most capricious and deceptive of all powers--if such it can be called—“a mockery, a delusion, and a snare.” More than three thousand years ago, Balaam made the discovery that neither enchantment nor divination was of any avail in matters that lay between man and his Maker. Bewitchment has always been a resort of the adversary-an element in the propagation of error—not a means of upholding the truth. The Abracadabra of Ritualism can never secure the continuous and unfailing oversight and renewing of the Holy Ghost, without which the Church could not exist a single hour; so true is it that the members of Christ's body, like the multiform creations of the material world, are vivified only by the direct inspiration of God Himself. “Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created; thou takest away their breath, they die and return to the dust."
III. FOOLISA IN ITS RETROGRESSION. “Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" "Ye did run well; who did hinder you ?” More forceful is the marginal reading—“Ye did run well ; who did drive you back ?" The sheep would have been safely folded, but for the silly antics of these false shepherds, who, standing in the way, with their turnings and crossings and genuflexions, their unknown tongues and flaunting vestments, scared them into bypaths, or drove them headlong to their own destruction.
Progress is the order of the Church ; by Christ's own ordinance it is to go on unto perfection. The "Foolish Church" is a solecism - always advancing backwards ! Is Christ a schoolmaster to bring us to Moses ? Is that first which is spiritual, and afterwards that which is natural ?
IV. FOOLISH IN ITS ESTIMATE OF THE TRUE POSITION AND REQUIREMENTS OF HUMANITY. The Church of England has solemnly professed its belief that man is very
from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil ; so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit, and therefore in every person born unto this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation (Art. IX.). That the condition of man is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his natural strength and good works to calling upon God (Art. X.). That he is accounted righteous before Him only for the merit of Christ Jesus, and must be justified by faith in Him alone (Art. XI.).
And how does Ritualism propose to heal this great hurt, and supply this vital want? The practical blasphemy of its creed may excuse strong language. It comes to him with a travestie of the redemptive process, and turns the great mystery of godliness—God manifest in the flesh-into an acted charade! O foolish Ritualists! who should have borne the highest earthly name—“ Ambassadors for Christ!”—how can you have so turned back, so to become mummers and mountebanks—the dressed-up puppets of a mediæval “Mystery," the strolling players in our long-dead-and-buried “Moralities ?”
But this so-called Church is pre-eminently
This is the saddest item—the crowning wickedness in its whole catalogue of folly—the lower deep, beyond the lowest.
After that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto
desire again to be in bondage ?" Christ had been evidently set forth before the eyes of the Galatians crucified among them. Flesh of their flesh-partaker of their nature, the echoes of his earnest voice had scarcely died out, and the
of his walk on earth was still so warm and fresh in their hearts; and yet they could turn from Him- from all his wonderful teachings, to another gospel, which was not another, guided by no better impulse than the bewitchments of time-serving and seducing teachers.
This phase of the sad story tells with direct power on those recreants in the Church of England who have in a similar manner turned from the truth, and been turned unto fables. If education could give grace, that Church might occupy a high place, indeed, among the Beræan nobility of Christendom. Their alma mater has been tenderly alive to the necessity of a sound and scriptural creed for her sons; and, so far as wise and well-meant laws could do it, has walled them in by ramparts reared upon a stable basis. “Holy Scripture," says her sixth Article, "containeth all things necessary to salvation, so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may
be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be received as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”
Looking round upon the pitiful shams who now minister n so many of our churches, will it be believed that every one of them has given his full assent and consent to this Article of the Church? What! The puppet who struts amongst his flowers and incense, clad in cope and chasuble, and albe and almuce, bearing on his left arm the mystic maniple, wearing at his back some sweet thing in sacramental millinery, bowing and whining before his candlesticks, exalting everything that is unnecessary to salvation, and ignoring all that is essential, requiring to be believed as an article of faith all the fripperies of his “foolish” creed, and ignorantly silent on all that relates to the common salvation ?
Yes. He who has made so pitiful a shipwreck of faith, once believed, or thought he believed, or with a lie in his right hand signed his declaration of belief, in the sufficiency of Scripture. The very thought is painful, and the more painful because too true. There are not wanting those who sympathize with the author of “The History of My Religious