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From 1803 to 1807–28th to 32d yeur of his age.
Period of his chief didactic Publications, viz. Treatise on the Nature
and Constitution of the Christian Church-Companion for the AltarStyle--Criticism upon it-Character it displays-Companion for the Festivals and Fasts—Church Catechism broken into short Questions and Answers—Examination of his Views of Religious EducationCompanion to the Book of Common Prayer—The Clergyman's Com. panion.
We have now to regard Mr. Hobart in a new light — one that connected him more closely with the feelings of the Church at large--that of a faithful expounder and able advocate of her doctrines, discipline, and worship.
The first in the long series of works, original and compiled, by which his name became so widely spread and identified with Church principles, was a republication of Stephen's “Treatise on the Nature and Constitution of the Christian Church,' with such alteration in form, and addition in matter, as appeared called for by the object he had in view, which was, instructing the young of his communion in the distinctive doctrines of the Church to which they belonged.
This little work was published in 1803, anonymously, partly, we may presume, through the diffidence natural to a young author, but mainly, no doubt, from that simplicity of character which on all occasions sought the end and not self-glory; for so soon as his name could give weight to his opinions, he scrupled not, with equal simplicity, to annex it.
In the spring of the following year (1804) appeared. A Companion for the Altar, or Week's Preparation for the Holy Communion.' This work was also, in part, a compilation, especially in the explanatory portions; the devotional part, however, is chiefly original, and bears the impress of its author-ardent alike in thought and language-sometimes verging to an extreme which a rigid taste might condemn, but never wanting in the higher requisite of heartfelt sincerity. But the literary merit of the work is a secondary question, and may be hereafter considered ; a greater and more interesting one is, what is its tone of doctrine. Now this being the first occasion on which Mr. Hobart's doctrinal views have come up, or could be made known from his own words, it may be proper to enlarge somewhat more upon this volume than its comparative merits would seem to demand.
The following extract from the preface contains, in few words, the principles of the author, as exemplified, not only in this, but in all his succeeding writings, for what he had once adopted upon conviction, he continued to hold without wavering.
• In the following pages the writer has endeavored to keep in view two principles which he deems most important and fundamental. These principles are, That we are saved from the guilt and dominion of sin by the divine merits and grace of a crucified Redeemer; and that the merits and grace of this Redeemer are applied to the soul of the believer by devout and humble participation in the ordinances of the Church, administered by a priesthood who derive their authority, by regular transmission, from CHRIST, the divine Head of the Church, and the source of all the power in it.'
After referring these principles to the primitive Church, he goes on to add, Could Christians be persuaded heartily to embrace these principles, and to regulate their faith and conduct by them, the Church would be rescued on the one hand from those baneful opinions which are reducing the Gospel to a cold, unfruitful, and comfortless system of heathen morals; and, on the other, from that wild spirit of enthusiasm and irregular zeal which, contemning the divinely-constituted government and priesthood of the Church, is destroying entirely her order, unity and beauty, and undermining the foundations of sound and sober piety.'
Now from these views of Christian truth and order, Mr. Hobart never deviated. “The Gospel in the Church' was his motto: united in the beginning by divine authority, man, he contended, had no right to put them asunder. Their separation might be pardonable through ignorance, or excusable through necessity, but never justifiable upon principle. “Primitive faith and apostolic order' were, therefore, the distinctive marks of the Church ; and they who professed to belong to her communion were bound to understand and recognise them : the one as the end, the other as the appointed means, but both obligatory. When asked if the Church was to be spread every where, “Yes,' said he, could I send my voice into every part of Zion, I would send with it this holy watchword — “ THE Church,” in her faith, her ministry, her order, her worship, in all her great distinctive 'principles—maintain her at all hazards.'
Such were the doctrines laid down : how received within the Church, and attacked from without, will hereafter appear from the controversies to which they led; at present we turn our attention to another feature of the work equally characteristic of its author, and equally obnoxious at the time to criticism or censure. The meditations and prayers added by himself were, as already stated, in a strain of fervor cer
tainly unusual in the language of Churchmen, at least in that day. On this ground the work by many was condemned ; but before sanctioning such condemnation let us hear his defence.
• It may possibly be objected to the strain of devotion in this work that it is visionary and enthusiastic. .... But the appeal may be made to the primitive fathers who poured forth their devotional feelings in language the most ardent and impassioned. The divines of the Church of England, who imbibed their principles and their piety at the pure fountain of the primitive Church, are distinguished for their lively and animating fervor. The writings of the venerable Bishop Andrews, of Bishop Taylor, Bishop Kenn, Bishop Hall, Dean Hickes, Dean Stanhope, Bishop Wilson, and the late eloquent and pious Bishop Horne, not less instruct by sound and forcible reasoning, than animate and warm by the sacred fervor that pervades them. Far be it from the writer, humble in attainments as in years, to presume to range himself even in the lowest seat with these eminently distinguished servants of the sanctuary. Happy may he esteem himself, if from the study of their works, which, next to the inspired volume, he cherishes as the invaluable standard of his principles and the animating guide of his devotions, he has caught even a feeble spark of that celestial