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We are led captive by an unreality. This is no new language on my part; I have said it before men took that interest which now they take in the Catholic doctrine: I say so now. I said then, as now, that the age, whatever be its peculiar excellences, has this serious defect, it loves an exclusively cheerful religion. It is determined to make religion bright and sunny and joyous, whatever be the form of it which it adopts. And it will handle the Catholic doctrine in this spirit; it will skim over it; it will draw it out in mere buckets
it will substitute its human cistern for the well of truth; it will be afraid of the deep well, the abyss of God's judgments and God's mercies.
Alas! . . . Surely we are pretending allegiance to the Church to no purpose, or rather to our own serious injury, if we select her doctrines and precepts at our pleasure; choose this, reject that; take what is beautiful and attractive, shrink from what is stern and painful. I fear a number of persons, a growing number, in various parts of the country, are likely to abandon themselves to what may be called the luxuries of religion-nay, I will even call them the luxuries of devotion; and the consequence of this it is very distressing to contemplate. They are tending to " feast without fear.” For this reason I should even look with jealousy on any considerable revival of weekly Communions. We are not fit for them; I am sure, men in general, such as we are, even religious persons, are not fit for them. We need a much deeper religion, a more consistent creed, a keener faith, a clearer insight into things unseen, a
i Parochial Sermons, Vol. i., Sermon 24
more real understanding of what sin is, and the consequences of sin, a more practical and self-denying rule of conduct, before such a blessed usage will be safely extended among our congregations. I really do trust, as I have already said, that the effects of this observance among ourselves have been such as we could desire; but if ever it is introduced into our great towns, much evil will come of it'. It is a very merciful provision, if we may thus speak of error overruled for good, that there should be so much opposition to it as there is at present. People say that the Holy Communion obscures the doctrine of Gospel grace; that in obeying Christ's command we are forgetting His atonemert; that in coming for His benefits, we tend to deny His allsufficient merits. Can any imputation be more preposterous and wild, however estimable the persons may be who cast it? Certainly none.
But still I say this strange apprehension is doing us service. I am not at all sorry for it, and the clamour that follows upon it; for it hinders a great evil, it represses a luxuriant, rank, unhealthy vegetation in our religious habits.
Many a man, and especially many a woman, may abandon themselves to the real delight, as it will prove, of passing hours in repeating the Psalms, or in saying Litanies and Hymns, and in frequenting those Cathedrals and Churches where the old Catholic ideas are especially impressed upon their minds; and they will
1 Of course it must not be forgotten, that for the revival of the practice altogether we are indebted to clergymen in great towns, as in London and Leeds, whose instances cannot be supposed to come under the remark in the text.
find, in the words of Scripture, that our Lord’s “Name is like ointment poured forth "," and His "fruit is sweet to their taste. Yet like the Prophet's roll, though “in the mouth sweet as honey”-nay, almost literally so in a strange way—yet as soon as they have eaten it, it will be bitter, if they have forgotten that "before honour is humility," sowing in tears before reaping in joy, pain before pleasure, duty before privilege. Nothing lasts, nothing keeps incorrupt and pure, which comes of mere feeling; feelings die like spring-flowers, and are fit only to be cast into the oven. Persons thus circumstanced will find their religion fail them in time; a revulsion of mind will ensue. They will feel a violent distaste for what pleased them before, a sickness and weariness of mind; or even an enmity towards it; or a great disappointment; or a confusion and perplexity and despondence. They have learned to think religion easier than it is, themselves better than they are; they have drunk their good wine instead of keeping it; and this is the consequence. I need not enter, however, into the full consequences of this incaution; they are very various and sometimes very awful. I am but calling attention to the fact. And then the persons in question will be ashamed or afraid to confide to others what their state is, or will not have the opportunity; and all this the more, because affectionate, sensitive, delicate, retired persons are perhaps more open than others to the danger I have been describing.
The most awful consequences of this untrue kind of devotion, which would have all the glories of the i Cant. i. 3.
2 Cant. ii. 3.
Gospel without its austerities, of course are those into which the dreadful heretics fell who are alluded to in the text; and of which it is well not to speak. Yet it must not be forgotten that even in these latter times, though not in our own Church, and not certainly among persons of high or refined minds, even immoralities have been the ultimate consequents of religious enthusiasm. But one need not dwell upon extreme results, in order to be impressed with the danger to which our Church is at present exposed. What indeed but evil can come of living like the world, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, faring sumptuously, dressing in purple and fine linen, and increasing in goods, and yet affecting to be the children of Apostles, and using the devotion of Saints ?
Christianity, considered as a moral system, is made up of two elements, beauty and severity; whenever either is indulged to the loss or disparagement of the other, evil ensues. In heathen times, Greek and Barbarian in some sense divided these two between them; the latter were the slaves of dreary and cruel superstitions, and the former abandoned themselves to a joyous polytheism. And so, again, in these latter times, the two chief forms of heresy into which opposition to primitive truth has developed, were remarkable, at least in their origin three hundred years ago, and at times since, the one for an unrefined and self-indulgent reli. giousness, the other for a stern, dark, cruel spirit, very unamiable, yet still inspiring more respect than the other.
Even the Jews, to whom this earth was especially
given, and who might be supposed to be at liberty without offence to satiate themselves in its gifts, were not allowed to enjoy it without restraint. Even the paschal lamb, their great typical feast, was eaten with bitter herbs!.” And, as time went on, the Prophets were given, who were more or less moulded after the pattern of Elijah, in “suffering affliction and in patience," and were typical of the one great Prophet of the Church who was to come. Much more are Christians bound to recollect, and to rejoice, that “the brother of low degree" is to be "exalted," and "the rich” to be “made low," and that the Apostles whose steps we are to follow (as we this day are especially reminded ) hungered and thirsted, and were naked, and were buffeted, and had no certain dwelling-place, and were accounted the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things.
Let us thus enter upon the rich and happy months which lie before us, when the earth puts forth all her excellence, and robes herself in her bright garments, and scatters her most precious gifts. Thus let us hallow Rogation Sunday, which is to-day,—suitably to the Church's intention which has made three days of abstinence attend upon it, by way of warning us that we must not enjoy our Father's temporal blessings without reserve., “He visiteth the earth and blesseth it; He maketh it very plenteous . . . He provideth for the earth; He watereth her furrows. He crowneth the year with His goodness, and His clouds drop fatness,
i Exod. xii. 8.
? Feast of St. Philip and St. James, * Ps. lxy. 9–12.