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proofs of your own hearts; above all, whether, upon slight grounds, you can think yourselves absolved from obedience to the law of Christ, who hath told us, “ by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another.”
Gentlemen of the Vestries; in order to give due effect to the labours of Clergymen, and in a great measure to make the person who is your Rector a reputable character, very much depends upon your exertions. Your aid is necessary in many respects. You are more in the world than your Minister is, or ought to be. When persons notoriously immoral are found among our members, you will see, by our canons, that it is your duty to inform the incumbent; that such persons may be warned of their sinful, destructive courses, and that, if possible, they may be brought to such a serious way of thinking, as may be attended with lasting good ; or that, if incorrigibly wicked, they may be excluded from communion with the Church. And while you consider yourselves as guardians of the Church, watching over its temporal concerns, and the regularity of its lay members, allow me to call your attention to those Canons which respect the conduct of your Ministers. It has often happened, either through ignorance of the mode of trying Clergymen who are guilty of any immorality, or breach of our rules, or from delicacy and compassion for one justly liable to censure, or through a wil. ful and perverse contempt of ecclesiastical government, that offending Clergymen have been retained in their parishes by their Vestries. The hurtful effects of this ill-judged conduct are evident. It affords to men careless of religious duty, a just cause of withholding pecuniary aid from Clergymen thus situated. It brings our discipline into disrepute, and may drive some from a Church, in which such irregularities seem to be countenanced. In order to preserve a knowledge of our Canons, and as a mean of preventing any important business from being done through surprise, or mis-managed by the small number of Lay-delegates, I think it my duty to exhort you to be careful in sending your respective delegates to every anmual Convention. It must occur to you, that in an age when innowalions are so common, there is danger lest a daring and restless spirit, in patient of controul, may seek to break through the decent forms appointed for the orderly and devout celebration of public worship; and schisms be introduced, by which the unity and peace of the Church may be violated, and the consciences of the honest and sincere be ensnared.
The present occasion has afforded me a mixture both of pleasure and of pain. With pleasure I have seen several new Churches planted among us. Many candidates have been admitted into the Ministry. They are prepared, and I hope determined, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, to devote their lives to the service of the Redeemer, and the good of souls. But our divine Master hath told us that offences must come. Some offences there have been with us; some unstable minds have been unhinged; many heart-burnings and mutual reproaches have arisen; and, as it appears to me, chiefly from a careless neglect, or wilful disdain of the Canons, both with regard to Ministers and their brethren of the Laity. Would to God
I could heal every unquiet mind, and unite all in brotherly love, in the bond of peace, and righteousness of life! That in many parts of my diocese a great revival of serious and devout impressions has taken place, is to me cause of joy aud thankfulness to Him who holds in his power the hearts of all men, and who has promised to be with his Church to the end of the world. May he enable and direct us to have a zeal tempered with prudence and knowledge, and conducted by his love and fear.
One thing I had almost forgotten to mention, though, when it is mentioned, I flatter myself that no arguments will be necessary to produce your hearty concurrence; and that is, that in order to maintain a conformity to the Canons of the General Convention, relating to the induction of Ministers, the Vestry of every parish should make an arrangement, as soon as convenient, to have their incumbent settled among them, according to the office prescribed by the Convention. Ministers and people should be mutually helpful in labours of love. The relation which subsists between them is a very sacred one. It only begins now; it is indissoluble, and forms a link in that chain which binds the Church on earth to the Church in heave en; which shall be gloriously unfolded at last, when the faithful ser vant of Christ shall present that portion of his fellow-travellers, now entrusted to his care, to the great Bishop and Shepherd of souls. Every consideration, natural, moral, and religious, suggests the duty of decently supporting those who labour among you in holy things, that they may give themselves to this work. As they cannot now, without good reasons, such as the Convention may approve, leave their flocks, so, if you give them a competent support, during good behaviour, it is firmly believed that you will experience the happi. est result.
Lastly; let all of us, whether of the Clergy, Vestry, or of the people at large, remember that we form a part of that great family, of which Jesus Christ is the head; that we have been admitted into this family by baptism; and that the vows of God are upon all of us. Be persuaded, my dear friends of the Laity, to do all in your power to aid the endeavours of your Ministers and Vestries in this good work; adhere to your Church, “built upon the foundations of the Prophets and Apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” Bless God that the light of the Gospel yet shines among us. Prize it as the greatest mercy; dread its removal as the worst of evils; and think, if we all improve our talents as Christians should do, how joyful and happy our meeting will be, when the Lord of heaven and earth shall have gathered, from this world's pollutions, all the souls found worthy of eternal life! AMEN.
Your affectionate Diocesan,
THOMAS J. CLAGGETT,
Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church. CROOM, 29th July, 1805.
ARCHDEACON PALEY, ON MIRACLES.
[By inserting an Extract from Archdeacon Paley, we are not to be understood as vouching for the truth or correctness of all his sentiments, But whatev: er may be thought of some things he has written, his Evidences of Christian: ity, deserve to be read by every friend to truth and fair enquiry. Edit.]
I ENTER upon this part of my argument, by declaring how far my belief in miraculous accounts goes. If the reformers in the time of Wychliff, or of Luther; or those of England, in the time of Henry the Eighth, or of Queen Mary; or the founders of our religious sects since, such as were Mr. Whitfield and Mr.Wesley in our times, had undergone the life of toil and exertion, of danger and suffering, which we know that many of them did undergo, for a miraculous story ; that is to say, if they had founded their public ministry upon the allegation of miracles wrought within their own knowledge, and upon narratives which could not be resolved into delusion or mistake ; and if it had appeared that their conduct really had its origin in these accounts, I should have believed them. Or, to borrow an instance which will be familiar to every one of my readers, if the late Mr. Howard had undertaken his labours and journies in attestation, and in consequence of a clear and sensible miracle, I should have believed him also. Or, to represent the same thing under a third supposition : If Socrates had professed to perform public miracles at Athens-if the friends of Socrates, Phædo, Cebes, Crito and Simmias, together with Plato, and many of his followers, relying upon the attestation which these miracles afforded to his pretensions, had, at the hazard of their lives, and the certain expence of their ease and tranquillity, gone about Greece, after his death, to publish and propagate his doctrines ; and if these things had come to our knowledge, in the same way as that in which the life of Socrates is now transmitted to us, through the hands of his companions and disciples : that is, by writings received without doubt as theirs, from the age in which they were published to the present, I should have believed this likewise. And my belief would in each case, be much strengthened, if the subject of the mission were of importance to the conduct and happiness of human life ; if it testified any thing which it behoved mankind to know from such authority ; if the nature of what it delivered required the sort of proof which it alledged ; if the occasion was adequate to the interposition, the end worthy of the means. In the last case my faith would be much confirmed, if the effects of the transaction remained; more especially, if a change had been wrought at the time, in the opinion and conduct of such numbers, as to lay the foundation of an institution, and of a system of doctrines, which had since overspread the greatest part of the civilized world. I should have believed, I say, the testimony in these cases; yet none of them do more than come up to the apostolic history.
If any one choose to call assent to this evidence, credulity, it is at least incumbent upon him to produce examples, in which the same evidence hath turned out to be fallacious. And this contains the precise question which we are now to agitate.
In stating the comparison between our evidence, and what our adversaries may bring into competition with ours, we will divide the distinctions which we wish to propose into two kinds, those which relate to the proof, and those which relate to the miracles. Under the former head we may lay out of the case,
I. Such accounts of supernatural events, as are founded only in histories, by some ages posterior to the transaction; and of which it is evident that the historian could know little more than his read. er. Ours is contemporary history. This difference alone removes out of our way the miraculous history of Pythagoras, who lived five hundred years before the Christian era, written by Porphyry and Jamblicus, who lived three hundred years after that era ; the prodigies of Livy's history ; the fables of the heroic ages, the whole of the Greek and Roman, as well as of the Gothic mythology: a great part of the legendary history of Popish saints, the very best attested of which, is extracted from the certificates that are exhibited during the process of their canonization, a ceremony which seldom takes place till a century after their deaths. It applies also with considerable force to the miracles of Apollonius Tyaneus, which are contained in a solitary history of his life, published by Philostratus, above a hundred years after his death ; and in which, whether Phi. lostratus had any prior account to guide him, depends upon his single unsupported assertion. Also to some of the miracles of the third century, especially to one extraordinary instance, the account of Gregory, Bishop of Neocesarea, called Thaumaturgus, delivered in the writings of Gregory of Nyssen, who lived one hundred and thirty years after the subject of his panegyric.
The value of this circumstance is shown to have been accurately exemplified, in the history of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the order of Jesuites.* His life, written by a companion of his, and by one of the order, was published about fifteen years after his death. In which life, the author, so far from ascribing any miracles to Ignatius, industriously states the reasons why he was not invested with any such power. The life was republished fifteen years afterwards with the addition of many circumstances, which were the fruit, the author says, of further enquiry, and of diligent examination, but still with a total silence about miracles. When Ignatius had been dead near sixty years, the Jesuits conceiving a wish to have the founder of their order placed in the Roman calendar, began,' as it should seem, for the first time to attribute to him a catalogue of miracles, which could not then be distinctly disproved ; and which there was in those who governed the Church, a strong disposition to admit up. on the most slender proofs.'
II. We may lay out of the case, accounts published in one country, of what passed in a distant country, without any proof that such accounts were known or received at home. In the case of Christianity, Judea, which was the scene of the transaction, was the centre of the mission. The story was published in the place in which it • Douglass' Criterion of Miracles, p. 74.
was acted. The Church of Christ was first planted at Jerusalem itself. With that Church others corresponded. From thence the primitive teachers of the institution went forth ; thither they assembled. The Church of Jerusalem, and the several Churches of Judea subsisted from the beginning, and for many ages,* received also the same books and the same accounts as other Churches did.
This distinction disposes, amongst others, of the above-mentioned miracles of Apollonius Tyaneus, most of which are related to have been performed in India, no evidence remaining that either the miracles ascribed to him, or the history of those miracles were ever heard of in India. Those of Francis Xavier, the Indian missionary, with many others of the Romish breriary, are liable to the same objection, viz. that the accounts of them were published at a vast distance from the supposed scene of the wonders.t
III. We may lay out of the case transient rumours. Upon the first publication of an extraordinary account, or even of an article of ordinary intelligence, no one who is not personally acquainted with the transaction, can know whether it be true or false, because any man may publish any story. It is in the future confirmation, or contradiction of the account; in ils permanency, or its disappearance ; its dying away into silence, or its increasing in notoriety ; its being followed up by subsequent accounts, and being repeated in different and independent accounts, that solid truth is distinguished from fugitive lies. This distinction is altogether on the side of Christianity. The story did not drop. On the contrary it was succeeded by a train of actions and events dependent upon it. The accounts which we have in our hands were composed after the first reports must have subsided. They were followed by a train of writings upon the subject. The historical testimonies of the transaction were many and various, and connected with letters, discourses, controversies, apologies, successively produced by the same transaction.
IV. We may lay out of the case what I call naked history. It has been said, that if the prodigies of the Jewish history had been found only in fragments of Manetho, or Berosus, we should have paid no regard to them; and I am willing to admit this. If we knew nothing of the fact but from the fragments ; if we possessed no proof that these accounts had been credited and acted upon, from times, probably, as ancient as the accounts themselves ; if we had no visi. ble effects connected with the history, no subsequent, or collateral testimony to confirm it ; under these circumstances, I think that it would be undeserving of credit. But this certainly is not our case. In appreciating the evidence of Christianity, the books are to be combined with the institution ; with the prevalency of the religion at this day ; with the time and place of its origin, which are acknowledged points; with the circumstances of its rise and progress, as collected from external history ; with the fact of our present books
* The succession of many eminent Bishops of Jerusalem, in the three first centuries, is distinctly preserved, as Alexander, A. D. 212, who succeeded Narcissus, then 116 years old.
t Doug. Crit. p. 84