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OF THE DIOCESE OF LONDON,
IN THE YEAR MDCCXXIV.
Reverend brethren, WHEN it pleased his majesty to translate me to the see of London, upon the death of a pious predecessor now with God, I was very sensible of the great weight and difficulty of the charge, as requiring almost perpetual attendances of one kind or another, and entangled with a greater variety of emergencies, and more exposed to the observation and censure of the world, than the administration of any other diocese. But as I was called to this charge without any application or endeavour on my own part, I considered it as a providential appointment, and firmly trusted that the same God, whose providence had called me to it, would graciously direct and support me in the discharge of it, to his glory, and the good of his church.
And next to the divine goodness, upon which I humbly rely for such a measure of wisdom and understanding, and such strength of body and resolution of mind, as a station of so much labour and difficulty requires, I must depend upon
the kind and unanimous assistance of you, my reverend brethren; and I doubt not but you will be ready on all occasions to join with me in preserving and establishing order and discipline within this diocese; which, as it is adorned with the capital city of the kingdom, from whence, as from a fountain, good and evil are derived to all parts of the kingdom; and as it may well be presumed to abound with persons of greater learning, knowledge, and experience, than any other diocese; ought upon both these accounts to be a pattern of order and discipline to the whole nation. And more particularly ought it to be the pattern of a regular behaviour in the clergy, and of an exact performance of the public offices of the church ; upon which two, it may most truly be said, that national piety and religion do mainly depend; nothing being more clear in experience, than that the spirit of piety and religion decays or increases in particular parishes, according as the incumbent sets a good or bad example, and the public offices in the church are reverently or negligently performed.
For the promoting these good ends, I choose, at my first coming to you, to put into your hands some rules and observations, which more particularly relate to those two important points. For though I doubt not but as many of the clergy of this diocese as have been a long time incumbents in it, and have reaped the full advantage of books and conversation, which is its peculiar blessing, are abundantly instructed in the several branches of the pastoral office'; yet it must be remembered, that there are many others, whose age, observation, and experience are much less; and to them therefore I would be understood more especially to apply myself, in suggesting such rules as are of most constant use, and seem to me to be most needful, for discharging the ministerial function, with honour to the church, and edification to the people : resolving also to put them into the hands of those who will have yet greater need of them, I mean, all such as I shall hereafter appoint to parochial cures, whether by institution or license. And if the rules which I have laid down shall be thought plain and obvious, it is a sufficient answer, that they are useful: since it may be truly said of all rules for the conduct of human life in any branch whatsoever, that the more plain the rule is, the more important the duty.
And because I shall begin with the decent and regular performance of the public offices of the church; that which I must mention in the first place, as a general preparation for the rest, is,
I. The decency of the place in which those offices are to be performed, in point of repairs, cleanliness, and all accommodations of books, vessels, vestments, and other things, which the rubrics and canons of the church suppose and require. For nothing is more certain, than that the solemn appearance of the place is the means of begetting a reverence in the minds of the
persons, and a suitable honour for the public worship of God; and, on the other hand, all mean and unseemly appearances in the house of God, and all neglects of the decent and necessary preparations for his public worship, beget an indolence and in
activity in the minds of the congregation, and a contempt, or at least a disregard, of the worship itself. So that the observation is ordinarily true, that the want of decency and cleanliness in the house of God is a sign of the want of true piety and devotion in the hearts of the people. God be thanked, there has of late years been an unusual zeal in this nation for the repairing and beautifying parochial churches, and furnishing them with all proper accommodations for the decent and orderly performance of divine service: but where that spirit has not yet prevailed, and the churches appear to need it, I must beseech you to do all that is in your power to raise it among the people; and particularly, I must beseech every rector to set his parishioners a good example upon this head, as well as others, by keeping his chancel not only in good repair, but in a decent condition.
The decency and solemnity of the place being thus provided for; that which comes first under consideration among the duties to be performed in it is,
II. The reading of divine service to the congregation. An office that is usually reckoned a matter of course, which all clergymen are equally capable of performing, and which they can hardly perform amiss; and yet it is most certain, that the edification of the people, and the honour of the liturgy itself, depend a great deal upon the manner of performing it; that is, upon the reading it audibly, distinctly, and solemnly. It is an absurdity, and an iniquity, which we justly charge upon the church of Rome, that her public service is in a tongue unknown to the people; but though our service is in a known tongue, it must be owned that as the reading it without being heard makes it to all intents and purposes an unknown tongue, so confused and indistinct reading, with every degree thereof, is a gradual approach to it. The dissenters object against our public liturgy, that it is cold, and lifeless, and unaffecting: but though the objection has no force in itself, (what they call cold and lifeless being no more than grave and serious, as all public liturgies ought to be,) yet we may give it very great force by running over the service in a cold and unaffecting manner. Our people themselves are too apt, in their own minds, to vilify and depreciate this part of our public service, as that which is ready composed to the minister's hand, and requires no further talent than the bare reading; but we find by experience to what degrees this objection vanishes, and how devoutly and reverently the service is attended to, where it has the just
advantage of being read in a distinct, solemn, and affectionate manner. In a word, it is in vain to hope, that the people will be zealous, if they see the minister indifferent, or that any service will be duly attended to, which is not recommended to them as a matter of great concern and importance, by being performed in a serious and affecting way; and whenever we perform it carelessly and precipitately, we must forgive them if they believe that we account it a task and a burden to us, which we are willing to get rid of with as little trouble, and in as short a time, as we can: a consideration, that will oblige me to resist, to the utmost of my power, and where there is not the most evident necessity, all attempts in ministers to charge themselves with the performing of divine service on any Lord's day more than twice; as it is a practice, which for the most part must render the service less affecting and edifying as to the people, and almost unavoidably draws the reproaches I have mentioned, both upon the liturgy and the minister.
I am aware, that the duty which I am now pressing is not equally in every one's power; all men having not an equal strength and felicity of voice. And, considering how much depends upon these qualifications, in order to an useful and honourable discharge of the ministerial office, it is much to be wished, that greater regard were had to them, in making choice of persons for the sacred function; and particularly, that, in the education of those who are designed for the ministry, the right forming of the voice were made one special care from the very beginning, in our schools, as well as universities: a care, which, however omitted by others, it is to be hoped will not be forgotten by such clergymen who have sons that are intended for the ministry; because they know by experience, and cannot but sensibly feel, the great importance and advantage of it. In the mean time, with regard to those who are already admitted to holy orders, I must beg leave to observe, that as on one hand there are few whose perfections and abilities in this way are so complete by nature, as to supersede all endeavours after further improvement; so, on the other hand, there are not many, whose natural talents are so very defective and unhappy as to be incapable of being bettered by care and observation. At least, it is very certain, that none are so irregularly framed, as not to be capable of officiating in a devout and serious manner, such as shall shew that the person who officiates is himself thoroughly affected; and this, where it appears, makes