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FOR JANUARY, 1815.
ART. I. Charge delivered to the Clergy of the Diocese of London, at the primary Visitation of that Diocese, in the Year 1814. By William, Lord Bishop of London. 4to. 2s. 6d. Payne and Foss.
FOR the appearance of no theological work, within our memory, has the attention of the world waited with so much anxiety, as for the publication of the charge now before us. The sudden elevation of its author to the highest episcopal throne in these dominions, the character for learning and piety which accompanied him in the divinity chair of Oxford, the eagerness to ascertain the opinions of such a man upon those important questions which now agitate the Church, all conspired to direct the public view to the first official declaration of the newly created. prelate. The favourable report of the few who were present at its delivery, might also have influenced to a still higher degree the general desire to see it embodied in a more permanent form.
Awful as the responsibility must be, which is in every case attached to the episcopal office in these days of latitudinarian innovation and multiplied division, upon no one does the weight fall with more severity of pressure, than upon him, to whom the administration of the diocese of London shall have been by Providence entrusted. Situated as he is at the fountain head of all infidelity and schism, and surrounded by enemies of every denomination and description, the duties, and the anxieties. of office are doubled upon him. But in proportion to the diffi culties which attend the discharge of his high and holy duty, is the extent of his influence and the power of his example.
In the present political state of our country, to the metropolis are directed the eyes of the distant parts of the empire, as to the rallying point no less of sound and constitutional principle than of the feuds of faction and disorganization. In the vast and complicated machine of our civil and ecclesiastical esta blishment, however distant its parts may be, none of them are unconnected
VOL. III. JANUARY, 1815.
unconnected with or independent of the main spring and centre of motion which the metropolis exhibits. From the sentiment and opinions which there prevail, the whole country in various degrees takes its tone: with respect to ecclesiastical affairs, in London are situated all those associations of support, by which the interests of the Church are maintained, and all those combinations of hostility, by which she is openly assaulted, or secretly undermined. From the operation of these and similar causes, the clergy of London are placed upon an eminence to which the view of their brethren, in every distant province, is constantly directed; while to the opinions, the language, and the conduct of their Diocesan is a still higher consequence and veneration attached. Whatever, therefore, may be the importance which we attach to an episcopal charge in a distant diocese, much greater is the influence of that, to which the clergy of the whole kingdom naturally look up, as to the criterion of the feeling upon religious matters in the metropolis, and as a declaration from the very penetralia of ecclesiastical government.
With these views, therefore, we shall present our readers with an analysis of the charge before us, which, if we mistake not, will have a far more powerful effect upon their minds than the gratification of any ordinary feeling, or the satisfaction of general curiosity.
The charge opens with a tribute of public veneration and private regard to the memory of the venerable prelate, to whom he immediately succeeded. This is no common effusion of customary compliment, but a pious, sincere, and heartfelt testi mony to the virtues of a man, who bravely faced the dangers which surrounded him, and presented an undaunted front against the acrimonious scurrility and abusive malevolence with which he was assaulted by every enemy of the Church. To the soundest principles he added a decision and a spirit which enabled him to execute, with perseverance and vigour, what he conceived in justice and wisdom. If, in manner, he was too unbending for that secular intercourse, which his diocese so peculiarly required, in his actions also he preserved the same unwavering determination. In his eulogium, therefore, on the virtues and the labours of his predecessor, the Bishop will be cordially joined by every friend of the establishment.
In the execution of a far more difficult task the Bishop is culiarly happy. Very rarely have we heard a man speak of himself and his own pretensions with so much frank and unaffected modesty, declaring itself, not in an absurd disavowal of those abilities which every wise man is assured, and every coxcomb fancies he possesses, but in that real and unreserved distrust in the strength of his own powers, which teaches him to