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medan, and Jewish world; view corrupt, decayed, and flourishing Christian churches; and you will find that nations prosper in proportion as the ministry of the word is maintained in purity and vigour. The public and constant preaching of divine truth, brings along with it, as far as it is permitted to have influence, not only right views of God and our relation to him, and pure and spiritual worship of him; but all those things which indicate national prosperity: the true principles of loyalty, freedom, and respect for those in authority, consideration for those in subjection, peace and security of property, liberty of the press, general diffusion of knowledge, progress of arts and science, and general happiness among the whole population, mark such countries. On the other hand, in idolatrous countries, cruelty, impurity, and female degradation, are distinguished features: in Mahomedan countries, pride and lust of dominion, oppression and despotism, and licentiousness prevail: in the decayed Eastern or corrupt Roman Catholic churches, possessing the outward frame of a church, but without the shining light of preaching, you observe silly, and absurd, and childish superstitions, the profanation of the sabbath, great corruptions of morals, despotic governments, and restraints on the freedom of the subject, and the liberty of the press.
A brief sketch of THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH will confirm these views.
Unquestionably, true religiou, with social happiness among those under its influence, flourished most in the apostolic age, under the immediate and full instruction of the first teachers of the gospel. Then alone could it be said of the whole church, They continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking
of bread and prayer s, all that believed were together,
.they did eat their meat with gladness and singleness ef heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. It was the determination of the first christian teachers, We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word. Acts vi, 4.
This happy state of the primitive Church continued (though the light shone with decreasing lustre,) for some centuries. Having already referred to this in the former chapter, and quoted the testimonies of Justin the Martyr, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Athanasius, but little need be added. They sometimes had two or three sermons preached in the same assembly, first by the Presbyters, and then by the Bishop, who usually, when present, closed the service with his paternal exhortation. In many places they preached on two or three of the week days, and in some they had sermons every day. Augustine says, "The people flock unto the church to the pare solemnities of Christ, where both sexes are so honestly distinguished by their several places; where they may learn how to lead their temporal lives well here, to become worthy of the eternal hereafter,
there either the comandments of the true God are propounded, his miracles related, his gifts commended, or his grace implored."*
The Fathers, however, soon found it necessary to urge the work of preaching. Chrysostom, speaking of the duties of Bishops on the words apt to teach, says, "This is most specially required of those who have the office of governing committed to them." He elsewhere says, "St. Paul converted the world, not so much by miracles, as by his continual preaching; and therefore a
* See Augustine's City of God, book ii, ch. 28.
bishop must be able to exhort by sound doctrine, that is, to preserve his flock and overthrow its enemies; and unless he be such a one, all is lost:" and he calls the office of a minister, "the teaching throne." Jerome says, that " a Bishop's innocent conversation without preaching, did as much harm by its silence, as it did good by its example. For the barking of the dogs is as necessary as the shepherd's staff, to terrify and beat. off the wolves." *
This neglect of preaching crept into the church by degrees, spread more and more generally, and marked its declining circumstances. Sozomen relates of the church of Rome in his time, (the fifth century,) that they had no sermons either by the bishop or any other, which was contray to the custom at that time of all churches."+
For some centuries before the Council of Trent was held, preaching was almost wholly laid aside by the clergy. Ancient councils urged this from time to time with little success. Preaching the doctrines of the gospel, and reading the Scriptures at large in the vernacular language, made no part of the public offices of religion. It is true, that it was still the practice to read, or rather chaunt some passages from the Gospels and Epistles in an almost unknown tongue The meudicants and friars too were a sort of itinerant preachers licensed by the Pope; but the end of their teaching was not to edify the people, but to collect alms; so that, instead of hearing the doctrine of Christ, the people were amused with novelties and vanities.
* See Bingham's Antiquities, b. 14, c. 4, s. 2.
+ See Sozomen, lib. 7, ch. 19. This fact, though questioned, has been rather confirmed than shaken. See Bingham.
Paris relates a story of the 11th century, the purport of which is to shew that more souls had been sent to hell, through neglect of preaching by the whole ecclesiastical order, in that than in any former age. In the reign of Edward I. as Bishop Stillingfleet observes, "The office of preaching was sunk so low, that, in a Provincial Constitution at that time, great complaint is made of the ignorance and stupidity of the Parochial Clergy, that they rather made the people worse than better. But at that time the Preaching Friars had got that work into their hands by particular privileges, where it is well observed that they did not go to places which most needed their help, but to cities and corporations, where they found most encouragement. But what remedy was found by this Provincial Council? Truly every Parochial Priest four times a year was bound to read an explication of the Creed, Ten Commandments, the Two Precepts of Charity, the Seven Works of Mercy, the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Principal Virtues, and the Seven Sacraments.--Here was all they were bound to by these Constitutions." At the Council of Trent a decree was made that Bishops and Parish Priests should preach the Gospel; see Session 5, chap. ii; and since the Reformation it has been more attended to; but Bingham shews that in the dark ages there was a period when the Bishops of Rome were not known to preach for five hundred years together; insomuch that when Pius Quintus made a sermon, it was looked on as a prodigy, and was indeed a greater rarity than the Sæculares Ludi were in old Rome.
All history declares the barbarism, oppression, ignorance, and low state of morals among the clergy and laity
* See b. 2, c. 3, s. 4.
which mark this period. Even Bellarmine (the most "For some years
acute Defender of Popery) admits, before the Lutheran and Calvinistic heresies were published, there was not (as contemporary authors testify) any severity in Ecclesiastical Judications, any discipline with regard to morals, any knowledge of sacred literature, any reverence for divine things; there was not almost any religion remaning." See the quotation in Robertson's Charles V.
Indeed, among corrupt and decayed churches, outward shew and pomp, and the administration of the sacraments, is all in all, and preaching is still greatly neglected; and, except discourses in honour of some favorite saints, or on some great festival, is very much disused. Bernard Gilpin, in a Sermon before the Court of Edward VI. describes at some length the gross superstition and blindness still remaining among the people. He concludes the account- All this, with much more, cometh through lack of faithful preaching, as experience trieth where godly Pastors be. It cannot be much marvelled, if the simple and ignorant people, by some wicked heads and firebrands of hell, be sometimes seduced to rebel against their Prince, and lawful magistrates, seeing they are never taught to know their obedience and duty to their king and sovereign, so straightly commanded in God's law." (See Gilpin's Lives of the Reformers.) Bradford truly said of the Roman Mass, "What thing helpeth so much Antichrist's kingdom, as does the mass? and what destroys preaching, and the kingdom of Christ on earth, more than it does?"* Doubtless, since the reformation, those
*The Rev. D. Wilson thus describes in the present day, the Roman Catholic service at Milan, where that religion having unrestrained influence, we can best judge of its real character.