Tracts for the Times/Tract 42
TRACTS FOR THE TIMES.
BISHOP WILSON'S MEDITATIONS ON HIS SACRED OFFICE.
Question from the Office of Consecration.—Are you persuaded that you be truly called to this ministration, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the order of this realm?—Ans. I am so persuaded.
Almighty God, who by Thy Providence hast brought me into Thine immediate service, accept my desire of serving Thee; and grant that, in the sincerity of my soul, I may perform the several duties of my calling, and the vows that are upon me.
Blessed be Thy Good Spirit, that ever it come in my heart to become Thy minister. May the same Good Spirit make me truly sensible of the honour and danger of so great a trust, and of the account I am to give. And give me grace to make amends, by my future diligence, for the many days and years that I have spent unprofitably. And this I beg for Jesus Christ His sake.
He that doth not find himself endued with a spirit of his calling, hath reason to fear that God never called him……
Marks of a True Pastor.
St. John x. 1. "He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep." A lawful entrance, upon motives which aim at the glory of God and the good of souls. An external call and mission, from the Apostolic authority of Bishops.
"The sheep hear his voice;" that is, when he speaks to their hearts and to their capacities.
"He that calleth his sheep by name;" that is, he knows them so well, as to know all their wants.
"He goeth before them, and they follow him." He leads such a life, as they may safely follow.
"A stranger will they not follow;" that is, they ought not to follow such as break Catholic Unity.
"I am the door." It is by Jesus Christ, not by us, that the flock is kept in safety; without Him, we can do nothing; neither by our learning, our eloquence, or our labours:—This is to rob Christ of the glory of saving His sheep; and to enter into the ministry, only to plunder the Church of her revenues.
"The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep;" either by spending it in the ministry; or suffering, if there be occasion; never sacrificing the flock to his own ease, avarice, or humours.
"The hireling careth not for the sheep." He lords it over them, makes what advantage he can of them, and counts them his own no longer than they are profitable to him. "He leaves them," that is, when dangers threaten. Then the good shepherd and the hireling are discovered.
Heb. v. 4. "No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron."
Heb. v. 2.……"High Priest, who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way." A pastor, who is sensible of his own infirmities, will not fail to treat sinners with meekness and compassion.
Heb. xiii. 17. "They watch for your souls, as they that must give account." A most dreadful consideration this; insomuch as that St. Chrysostom said, upon reflecting upon it, "It is a wonder if any ruler in the Church be saved." It will be work enough for every man to give an account for himself; but to stand charged, and to be accountable for many others, who can think of it without trembling? O God! how presumptuous was I, to be persuaded to take upon me this charge!
Who will value himself upon ecclesiastical dignities, who considers that Judas was chosen to be an Apostle?
O Good Shepherd! I beseech Thee, for myself and for my flock, to seek us, to find us, to lead us, to defend us, and to preserve us to life eternal.
If God be satisfied with a pastor, it is of little importance whether he please or displease men.
Tit. ii. 15. "These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all our authority. Let no man despise thee;" that is, for want of exercising ecclesiastical discipline.
The following are truths which cannot be preached too often: viz., the bondage of man by sin, the necessity of a Deliverer, the manner of our redemption, the danger of not closing with it, the power of grace to deliver us, &c. A pastor should do all this, and act with the dignity of a man who acts by the authority of God.
The Authority of Bishops.
We are willing enough to desire to imitate Jesus Christ and his Apostles in their authority, without thinking of following them in their humility, their labours, self-denial, &c.
A Bishop is a Pastor set over other Pastors. They were to ordain Elders. They might receive an accusation against an Elder. They were to charge them to preach such and such doctrines, to stop the mouths of deceivers, to set in order the things that were wanting. And, lastly, this was the form of Church government in all ages, so that, to reject this, is to reject an ordinance of God.
Matt. v. 19. "Whosoever shall do and teach the commandments, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of God." It is in this the true greatness of a Bishop does consist, not in the eminence of his see, multitude of attendants, favour of princes, &c.
Bishops were called to sit in Parliament, to give their counsel according to God's Law; as the civil judges were to give their advice according to the temporal laws in matters of difficulty.
Mark x. 44. "Whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all." The greatest Prelate in the Church is he who is most conformable to the example of Christ, by humility, charity, and care of his flock, and who, for Christ's sake, will be a servant to the servants of God.
O Sovereign Pastor of souls! renew in Thy Church, and especially in me, this spirit of humility; that I may serve Thee in the meanest of Thy servants. If I lie under the necessity of being served by others, let it be with regret, and let me exact no more service than is necessary.
Luke x. 3. "Behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves." It belongs to Thee, O Lamb of God, to guard both me and my flock from wolves who assault us, either openly or in sheep's clothing, I depend entirely upon Thee, in whatever relates to my own preservation, or that of the people committed to my care.
Luke xix. 20. "Lord, behold, here is Thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin," O my Saviour! I tremble to think how I have followed the example of this slothful servant; and what reason I have to dread his doom. Rest is a crime in one who has promised to labour all the days of his life; and in me, therefore, it is a great evil, not to be always doing good. Pardon me, my God, for what is past; and let me not imagine that, because I am free from gross and scandalous crimes, that, therefore, I lead a good life. O Lord, give me grace proportionable to the talents I have received, and to the account I am to give; that I may faithfully perform all the duties belonging to my state. Amen.
Whoever is associated in the Priesthood of Christ, ought, in imitation of Him, to sacrifice himself for the advantage of His Church, and for all the designs of God.
Luke xxii. 26. "But ye shall not be so; but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve." A Bishop does not know his office in the Church, if he pretends to distinguish himself by power, imperiousness, and grandeur; or by any other way than by humility, and by a great concern for souls. Marks of distinction are rather a burthen, which he bears out of necessity, but complains of them secretly to God. He considers himself as the servant, not as the Lord of souls. Even Jesus Christ made Himself our pattern in this.
Translation of Bishops and Pastors.
Self-love is too often at the bottom, and not the glory of God or the good of souls. When men's labours are attended with tolerable success, yet, because either they can better their temporal condition, or think that a more public station would be more suitable to their great capacities, they leave their station for one more full of dangers, without any prospect of being more serviceable to God or to His Church, and the souls of men; not considering that this is the voice of pride, self-love, and covetousness, and an evil example to others, to whom we do, or should, preach humility, as the very foundation of Christianity.
The greater share we have in the authority of Jesus Christ, the greater must we expect to have in His suflferings; the cross being the reward of faithful pastors.
To leave a clergy and a people to whom one is perfectly well known, to go to another to whom one is a stranger, and this for the sake of riches, which are supposed to have been renounced,—this was unknown to the first ages of Christianity.
He is but the vain image of a Pastor, an idle shepherd, who chooses to abandon his flock, and leave them to the conduct of those who have no concern for them, and entrust the salvation of those souls to others, for whom he himself is responsible to God. He may be learned, he may be employed, &c. but he cannot be a good shepherd……
Col. iv. 5. "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time." Prudence is very necessary in dangerous times; it being no small fault to give occasion to the raising of storms against the Church and her ministers, for want of having a due regard to the times and to the passions of carnal men.…
Matt. xx. 26, 27. "Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant; even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister." God give me a true and prudent humility; to have nothing of the air of secular governors, to attend the flock of Christ as a servant, to look on Him as my pattern, to study His conduct and spirit, to spend and be spent for my flock, that I may never desire to increase my burden, that I may be better qualified to be ministered unto, and that I may never strive to live at ease, in plenty, in luxury, repose, and independence. Amen.
The name of a servant ought to be esteemed honourable to the eye of faith, and a real privilege; since Jesus Christ took upon Him the nature of a servant.
Bishops and Priests, (saith St. Ambrose,) are honourable, on account of the sacrifice they offer. The power of the keys, and the exercise of that power; the due use of confirmation, and (previous to that) examination; a strict examination into the learning, lives, and characters, of such as are designed for Holy Orders, are matters of infinite and eternal concern.…
A man may be ruined by those very means which were designed to enable him to discharge his duty with more convenience. And Bishops have too often been put into such easy circumstances, as to forget that they were Bishops.…
Rev. i. 16. "And He had in His right hand seven stars." Make me, O Jesus, a shining star in Thy Church; support me by Thy right hand; guide and direct me by Thy light; let me never become a wandering star.
A primitive Bishop will be careful to avoid, as much as possible, worldly equipage and retinue, excess, pomp, and ostentation.…
Bishops are called angels in the Revelations, intimating that they should have no interest on earth at heart so much as that of the good of the Church and the honour of God.…
At the Lord's Supper.
(Before the Service begins.)
May it please Thee, O God, who hast called us to this ministry, to make us worthy to offer unto Thee this sacrifice for our own sins and for the sins of Thy people. Accept our service and our persons, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
O, reject not this people for me and for my sins!
(Upon placing the alms upon the Altar.)
All that we possess is the effect of Thy bounty, O God! Of Thy own do we give Thee. Pardon all our vain expences; and accept of this testimony of our gratitude to Thee, our benefactor, for the Lord Jesus' sake.
(Upon placing the Elements upon the Altar.)
Vouchsafe to receive these Thy creatures from the hands of us sinners, O Thou self-sufficient God!
(Immediately after the Consecration.)
We offer unto Thee, our King and our God, this bread and this cup. We give Thee thanks for these and for all Thy mercies; beseeching Thee to send down Thy Holy Spirit upon this sacrifice, that He may make this bread the body of Thy Christ, and this cup the blood of Thy Christ; and that all we, who are partakers thereof, may thereby obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of His passion.
And, together with us, remember, O God, for good, the whole mystical body of Thy Son; that such as are yet alive may finish their course with joy; and that we, with all such as are dead in the Lord, may rest in hope and rise in glory, for Thy Son's sake, whose death we now commemorate. Amen.
May I adore Thee, O God, by offering to Thee the pure and unbloody sacrifice, which Thou hast ordained by Jesus Christ. Amen.
But how should I dare to offer Thee this sacrifice, if I had not first offered myself a sacrifice to Thee, my God? May I never offer the prayers of the faithful with polluted lips, nor distribute the bread of life with unclean hands.
I acknowledge and receive Thee, O Jesus, as sent of God, a Prophet, to make His will known to us, and His merciful purpose to save us; as our Priest, who offered Himself an acceptable sacrifice for us, to satisfy the Divine Justice, and to make intercession for us; and as our King, to rule, and defend us against all our enemies.
May I always receive the Holy Sacrament in the same meaning, intention, and blessed effect, with which Jesus Christ administered it to His Apostles in His last Supper.
By faith we receive the Spirit, which is of God. "I will put My Spirit within you, saith God."
We are truly Christians by receiving the Spirit of Christ.
This is the great blessing of the Gospel, the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, with the desire of which we conclude our daily prayers, with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.…
The effect and blessing of Confirmation.
It is to convey the inestimable blessing of the Holy Spirit of God by prayer and the imposition of the hands of God's ministers, that He may dwell in you, and keep you from the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Confirmation is the perfection of baptism. The Holy Ghost descends invisibly upon such as are rightly prepared to receive such a blessing, as at the first He came visibly upon those that had been baptized.…
As the Holy Spirit is present in our baptism, to seal the remission of sins, and to infuse the seeds of Christian life; so is He present in confirmation, to shed further influences on those that receive it, for stirring up the gift of God bestowed in baptism, &c.
Prayer after Confirmation.
Matt. xix. 15. And He laid His hands on them.
O Holy Spirit of grace! I make my humble supplication to Thee in behalf of those Thy servants on whom I have this day laid my hands. Be Thou their wisdom, to give them the knowledge of religion; their understanding, to know their duty; their counsel in all their doubts; their strength against all temptations; their knowledge, in what belongs to the state of life in which Thy Providence shall place them; their piety and godliness in all their actions; and be Thou their fear, all their life long, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
The Feast of St. Bartholomew.
LONDON: PRINTED FOR J. G. & F. RIVINGTON,
ST. PAUL'S CHURCH YARD, AND WATERLOO PLACE.
Gilbert & Rivington, Printers, St. John's Square, London.