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Admission of members.
moment is committed, you divide responsibility, and dimin. ish the prospect, that the business will be done in the best
This principle is well understood by business men. Take for instance, an encampment of soldiers. Is it customary to place the whole army as sentinels, or a chosen few?-We know that military. 'men act wisely in this arrangement, and those who are placed as sentinels, by the responsibility that rests upon them, are made to be more vigilant, guarded and cautious.
So also in ordinary cases of sickness, the patient is much safer in the hands of one skilful physician, than if he had a dozen attending upon him. The same principle comes in here. As you increase the number of those who share responsibility, you lessen the probability of a favourable result.
While listening to these remarks, the thought occured to me, “With how much more force does this reasoning apply to the practice adopted by the Episcopal Church, where, the whole responsibility in relation to the admission of cornmuni. cants, devolves upon the minister, whose business it is to be conversant with every form of christian experience, and who is the friend of each member of the flock, in whorn all have confidence, and who will therefore be more likely to draw out the real views, and ascertain the precise spiritual character of each applicant, than any other man.' While, there fore, the whole undivided weight of the responsibility of admitting and excluding communicants, is rolled upon the minister, he still has the benefit of counsel from such members of the church as he may choose to consult; for each member of the church feels deeply interested in the character of those who are visibly connected with him in the bonds of the christian covenant.
To illustrate still farther the safety and benefit of this ar. rangement in the Episcopal Church, which we have been considering, I will here introduce a letter, which I have been permitted to transcribe for this purpose.
This letter was addressed to an Episcopal Clergyman, by a lady of a highly cultivated mind, who had been educated in the bosom of another church, but who found the desired resting place for her soul within the walls of our Zion. The OC
Letter : Mrs. T
casion which called forth this communication, will be ex. plained by the communication itself. "MU esteemed Pastor :
I take the liberty of addressing you upon a very important subject. I have long felt it my duty to make a profession of religion, but a variety of causes has hitherto concurred to prevent my taking this step. Your discourse, however, last Sabbath morning, upon the text—“What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me”-went home to my heart in such a way, that I feel I can no longer put off this solemn duty of dedicating myself to God.
The principal object of this letter, is to request you to favour me with the opportunity of an early interview, in relation to this matter. It may not be improper, however, for me here to give you some idea of the trials and difficulties that have been in my path.
I had the unspeakable honor and blessing of being born of christian parents. Never was a child reared up with more religious care than myself, yet I took counsel of my own wicked heart, and went after the vanities of the world. O how it pierced like iron the tender bosom of my dear mother ! My honored, sainted parents, now in heaven-oh that they could know the bitterness and anguish of spirit which I have suffered in thinking how my foolish, wayward conduct must have wounded them! They went down to the grave before • I came to myself.'
It is now ten years since my mind was first awakened to seriousness. The night of horror and gloom which then came over me, no one can know. It was in the midst of a life of gayety and fashion, that a word entered my ear and sank down to the bottom of my soul. An unseen hand mysteriously drew aside the veil, which all along had hung before my eyes, and revealed to me my sinfulness.—Then I went mourning all the day. I poured out my heart before the Lord, and said, “Thou hast removed my soul far off from peace.' 'I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord, remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance and is humbled in me.' But he whose mercies are new every morning,' gracious
Mrs. T—'s difficulties in relation to a profession. ly lifted upon me, as I trust, the light of his reconciled countenance, and the troubled waters began to subside.
Resting my hopes on the cross of Christ, I began to think of making a public profession of religion, but I unexpectedly found an insuperable barrier in the way. I was told that in order to be admitted to the communion of Saints, I must go before the whole Church and relate my experience. Though my sainted parents had lived and died members of this Church, and I had the highest regard for the venerable pastor, from whose lips I had heard precious counsel to guide me in my heavenward
way, I instinctively recoiled from the idea of giving a public rehearsal of the religious exercises of my mind. It seemed to me such a departure from that sensitive, yet lovely female delicacy, which instinctively shrinks from public gaze, that I could not see how a modest, retiring woman, could take such a step. The more I reflected upon this subject, the more I became strengthened in the conviction that it was not my duty to seek a connection with the people of God in this way. Such trains of thought as the following passed through my mind.
There is no necessity for this public rehearsal of one's experience. Satisfactory evidence of a renewal of heart, can be better obtained from a private interview, than by any stateraient made in public. Under the agitating circumstances of such an occasion, how incompetent must a timid female be to convey any just idea of her doctrinal views, or the state of her religious feelings!
I thought also, I discovered that such recitals were attended with evil. I went to hear several persons relate their experience. It appeared to me, that there was a powerful influ. ence unconsciously operating upon the mind of each one, to relate what was striking in the way of religious exercise, rather than decisive as to christian character; and in all these various experiences, there was such a seeming identity, as to give them a sort of stereotype appearance. And I have often met with persons ready to give themselves up to des. pair, because they had never experienced any thing precisely similar to what they had so frequently heard related by those who presented themselves as candidates for admission to the Church.
I said to my pastor one day,
Defects of certain systems.
you not think that this system has defects? Now I can lay open my mind perfectly to you. Are you not capable of judging of my fitness for admission to the spiritual fold? Ought not the Church to have so much confidence in you as to rely upon your judgment in this matter? How can you instruct us in the way of life, if you are not competent to judge what constitutes suitable qualifications for church membership? And then do you not think that there would be much fewer difficulties in the church, if, when there was any little variance, the aggrieved members came to you as their counsellor and umpire? What injury is often done to the cause of Christ, by bringing before the public those little bickerings among christians, which, if the minister had had the power of discipline in his hands, would have never been blazoned to the world !"
In reply to these remarks, my venerated pastor sighed and said, “There is undoubtedly room for improvement in our system, but at present I have not the power of bringing it about."
Dear good man, he now sleeps in Jesus, and has gone to that happy world where « the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.”
To conclude then this letter, which is already, too long, these were some of the obstacles in my way, which prevented me from making an earlier profession of religion. Perhaps, however, you will think that I ought to have broken through all those difficulties, and taken my stand openly on the side of the Lord. This is now my desire—to declare myself on the Lord's side. I love the Episcopal Church on many accounts, and surely none the less that I find in it precisely that arrangement in reference to the preparatory steps for the admission of members, that I had long thought the most expedient.
I hope that nothing I have said will be construed into an indication of unkind feeling towards the denomination of christians among whom I was born. I believe them to be truly the people of the Lord. I love them for their piety and devotedness to God. Still I must express my honest preference for the Episcopal Church. Pardon this very long epistle, and believe me &c.
The kind of supervision maintained over communicants. The object for which the preceding letter has been introduced, is to illustrate the advantages connected with the arrangement that prevails in the Episcopal Church, with respect to the admission of members. I think that the candid reader cannot fail to see that a most effectual method has been adopted to guard the avenues of entrance to the fold. There is another consideration, however, to which our attention must be directed, if we would determine whether the best measures are adopted to preserve the purity of the Church.
2. What kind of supervision is maintained over commu. nicants, after their admission to the fold?
They are placed under the especial care of the Pastor, upon whose ministry they attend, and upon whom devolves the high responsibility, not only of watching over them as the shepherd does his flock, but of reproving, admonishing, and, if it becomes necessary, of cutting off such as walk disorderly, and dishonor their holy calling.
The language addressed at the time of their admission, to those who are set apart to the holy office, and to whom is committed this high trust, is very solemn and affecting.
“ And now again we exhort you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye have in remembrance into how high a dignity, and to how weighty an office and charge, ye are called: That is to say, to be Messengers, Watchmen, and Stewards the Lord; to teach and to premonish, to feed and provide for the Lord's family; to seek for Christ's Sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ forever.
Have always, therefore, printed in your remembrance, how great a treasure is committed to your charge. For they are the sheep of Christ, which he bought with his death, and for whom he shed his blood. The Church and congregation whom you must serve, is his spouse, and his body. And if it shall happen that the same Church, or any member thereof, do take any hurt or hindrance by reason of your negligence, ye know the greatness of the fault, and also the horri. ble punishment that will ensue."*
* See “ The Ordering of Priests.” The greatness of the punishment above referred to, may be gathered from Ez. 33, the chapter usually read on this occasion.