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ON THE CHARACTER OF THE CHURCH OF
REVELATIONS, iii. 8.
I know thy works : behold I have set before ..thee an open door, and no man can shut it ;
for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept I my word, and hast not denied my name.
ASSOCIATED, my brethren, as we have this day been, with the Church of England, in one of her noblest offices of Christian beneficence, I know not that I can better occupy the remaining part of your time, than in shortly directing your thoughts to the character of that venerable Church, whose present solicitations we have gratefully obeyed, and whose rules and services we have long adopted as our own. After the complete and fervent addresses in which the peculiar duty of the day has been recommended to us, I should, indeed, esteem it not only useless, but presumptuous, were I to offer orie additional word of explanation or entreaty. We cannot now but feel the grandeur and importance of that Charity in which we have been called to participate, and there is not, I am satisfied, one among us, who does not thankfully meet the call. We have seen a door opened for the entrance of that great Church, whom we are proud to follow, into the widest field of her ministrations; and when we behold her temperate but steady step no longer hesitating to enter in, can we doubt that a door is opened which no human hand shall ever close? The illumination of the Gospel has begun to spread over the distant regions of the east. The Sun of Righteousness is once more returning on his orbit of mercy towards the cradle from which he sprung, and shall we not fearlessly contemplate the certainty of his progress, when the dawn upon the mountains is pointed to, not by the hand of hasty enthusiasm, but of longtried and sober wisdom? In these moments of elevated thought, and Christian sympathy, where shall we rest our eyes, aching with the splendour of those visions of glory, in any repose, so grateful as on the pure and placid aspect of that Church which has led us to this height of contemplation; and can we find, as a conclusion to our meditations, any principles more conducive to the regulation and well-being of our future course, than those which she has ever inculcated, and ever exhibited for the imitation of her sons ?
* Preached on November 14, 1819, after a collection made in aid of the Church of England Missions in the East Indies.
It is with a view to this interesting subject, that I have been directed in the choice of my text. It contains the words of the Spirit to the Angel of the Church of PHILADELPHIA, but, if I do not err, they are words far from inapplicable to the character and views of that great Church which we acknowledge as our model and guide. “ I know thy works : behold I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it; for thou hast a little strength, and has kept my word, and hast not denied my name.”
1. The words, in the first place, are words expressive simply of the steadiness of Faith and of obedience. They point not to any magni. ficence of worldly splendour, or of temporal dominion in the Church of which they speak. They point not, in another view, to any eminent display of spiritual zeal, or of outward sanctity. They speak merely of that unobtru. sive faith which is known by works : of that simple and steady character, which is alike superior to the pride of life, and to the pride of the spirit,--which passes through the world and its allurernents, without being subjected to them, on the one hand, and without affecting an unnatural separation from them, on the other,which feels, in the humility of its spirit, that it has but "a little strength,” but which yet, “ in an honest and good heart, having heard the word,” is enabled to keep it, and brings forth the fruit of its works "with patience,” and never denies the holy name in which it has been called.
There is something in this character, which seems peculiarly formed upon the modesty of the Gospel; and if I am not greatly mistaken, it has been the leading character of the CHURCH of ENGLAND from the first hours of her Reformation to the present day. She has, through that long period, been distinguished by one uniform course of steady opinion, and one undeviating line of Christian conduct,-seldom permitting imaginary or enthusiastic views to cloud the clearness of her perceptions of Divine truth,—and as seldom permitting a worldly spirit to vitiate the purity of her tenets or of her practice. She may have had her hours when she has slumbered and slept ; but she has ever been ready to awaken at the approach and the call of the Bridegroom, and to follow him in at the open door, in virgin majesty, having her lamp filled with its own pure deeds of light. From this simple principle, indeed, of a single-minded and affectionate adherence to duty, we may trace the origin of all that is great, and all that is wise, in this illustrious Church. From this it is, that in her earliest hour, she passed through the fiery furnace of the Reformation with a miraculous integrity,—" the fire having no power on her body, nor singeing an hair of her head, nor the smell of fire passing on her !" From this it is, that as she advanced in her