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(PREACHED, APRIL 20, 1823.)
MARK IV. 23, 24.
IF ANY MAN HAVE EARS TO HEAR, LET HIM HEAR. AND HE
SAID UNTO THEM, TAKE HEED WHAT YE HEAR. WITH WHAT MEASURE YE METE, IT SHALL BE MEASURED TO YOU.
It may not unreasonably be expected that, upon this first occasion of addressing an assemblage of Christians in this sacred place, I should select some passage in Holy Writ, calculated to bring before us, directly and impressively, the subject of Religious Instruction. It might also seem to indicate some want of feeling in your Preacher both as to the difficult
of the duties which he has undertaken, and to the kindness with which they have been imposed, if he were not to advert briefly to the relation which has thus been formed between himself and his hearers. It would indeed be painful to me not to express a deep sense of the unmerited kindness I have received from those, whose partiality is the more gratifying, because I know that it has arisen from an opinion, however erroneous, of my fitness for this high office. They have given me credit, and to such qualifications I dare lay claim, for I am sure they are far from rare;—they have given me credit for unfeigned faith and ardent zeal in the cause of that religion, which has been vouchsafed to
us from above; and of that pure and Apostolical Church, to which we have the happiness to belong. But they may have estimated too highly the value of labours employed in gaining a knowledge of the Scriptures themselves, of their various and convincing evidences, and of the manner in which the result of such labours may be placed with due effect before a Christian congregation. I must therefore with painful sincerity acknowledge an apprehension, that an opinion thus favourable may appear to exceed just bounds, when it has raised the object of it to the pre-eminence, in which I now stand—to be the chosen Minister, the appointed Instructor of the venerable and enlightened men whom I see before me, Sages of the Law, Dispensers of Justice throughout the land.
Strong, however, as these sensations are both of gratitude and humility, yet is their force considerably increased, when I look to the names and characters of those, who in older days,as well as more recent times, have sustained the dignity and fulfilled the duties of this high office. When I advert to the consummate knowledge and critical acumen of Gataker, the profound learning and solid piety of Archbishop Usher ; when I call to mind the moral and intellectual energy of Dr. Donne, and the luminous orthodoxy of Bishop Gastrell; if I shrink not with dismay, it is because I am assured that the Truths, which they so ably supported, may still be maintained by humbler talents and by meaner instruments, under the gracious guidance of Him, who inspires the weak with strength and the sincere with boldness. Let me not however fail to draw your attention to the revered name of
Tillotson, that zealous and upright defender of the Church, when it was menaced at once from without and from within ;-who, while he firmly maintained the purity of its doctrines against the errors of a debasing superstition, as bravely exerted himself to shield it from the moody chimeras of bigotry, and the contagious taint of intolerance.
Consistent with the principle, which guided the minds of this learned body in the selection of other Preachers, was the appointment of Warburton and of Hurd, to dispense from this pulpit the profound thought and original disquisition, which characterized the one; and the classical taste, which was so aptly combined with Scriptural research in the other.
To the living luminaries of the Church, who have at once adorned and edified your Society, it were superfluous, and perhaps indelicate, to offer the feeble tribute of my praise. But some allusion may with propriety be made to that singularly interesting designation, by which my immediate predecessor is called upon to support the purity, and extend the knowledge, of our most holy faith in a distant quarter of the globe. He is empowered to execute the grand, but arduous, duties of a Christian Prelate in a land, which has long been darkened with the horrors of a belief, unsocial in its principle, revolting from its absurdity, and detestable from its cruelty.
a Every friend to religion, more especially every friend to the Established Church, will feel deep affliction in calling to mind, that two of these most distinguished men, the late Bishop of Oxford and Bishop Heber, no longer survive to instruct mankind by their learning, their virtues, and their zeal.
For the wild and puerile fictions of Pagan mythology, he will substitute the pure and genial current of a Revelation truly divine ;-to the burthensome ritual and fantastic dogmas of idolatry, he will oppose the simple ceremonies, with the mild but impressive precepts, of the Gospel. From an abject belief in the multiplied and fictitious incarnations of Vistnou, he will turn away their minds by presenting to them, in all its sublimity and all its mercies, “the”, real
mystery of godliness'; God manifest in the flesh.” To deter them from a repetition of painful and longprotracted penance, to curb in their mad career the suicidal devotions of these unhappy heathens, he will lift on high the Cross, and paint in glowing terms that stupendous sacrifice, “ the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” b But aware of the deep root, which early prejudice and long-sanctioned customs take in the human mind in every age, and under every form of religion, he will deport himself as a follower of that Master, who " came into the world to save sinners ;" who reminded his own disciples that they knew not what spirit they were of; and even cheerfully associated with the schismatic and the sinner, that he might, by the familiarity of his intercourse, unbend their prepossessions and allay their fears; till at length, by the gradual, but sure, effect of wisdom and goodness combined, he might clearly lay open the source of their errors and correct the enormity of their vices. Pursuing the footsteps of his divine Master, your late revered Instructor will
a 1 Tim. iii. 16.
b Heb. x. 10.
fulfil his high mission, not by sternly chastising error, nor labouring hastily to extirpate even vice. To the " wisdom of the serpent” he will join “ the harmlessness of the dove”; he will restrain any immoderate earnestness of zeal by the exercise of that charity, “ which beareth, as well as hopeth, all things”; and, above all, he will gain sure access to the hearts of his hearers by the pure example and persuasive influence of his own life and manner3!
With such illustrious names impressed upon his recollection, and with a just sense of the magnitude of the task he is undertaking, your Preacher now for the first time presents himself before you. Appealing equally to the generous and to the conscientious motives, by which you have been induced to call me to your service, let me intreat you henceforward to consider me as employing my best powers for your best interests; and as wholly relying, for the efficacy of those instructions, which it will be my duty to deliver from this place, upon the promised assistance of that Heavenly Spirit, who will guide into all truth such as fervently implore His aid, and will follow His holy suggestions. May the same Holy Spirit pour upon you His“ grace, whereby ye may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.”a May He ever incline you to hear with a seriousness, proportioned to their importance, the awful truths of Redemption ; that
ye look not for displays of “ fleshly wisdom”b; nor sfor discussions on curious questions, which engender strife; but such rather, such only, as lead
a Heb. xii. 28.
b 2 Cor. i. 12.