Truth and Practical Piety
Truth and Innocency
The Preface to the Works of William Beveridge (1638-1708), states that `the confusion and disputes of those troubled times’ turned him, for direction and guidance, to the study of Ecclesiastical Antiquity for the elucidation of fundamental truth and the promotion of practical piety. He was a parish priest for twenty years, became Archdeacon of Colchester in 1681, Prebendary of Canterbury in 1684, and Bishop of St Asaph in 1704. He is known as `The Great Reviver and Restorer of Primitive Piety’ for his disposition is pastoral not purely academic. His great work, Ecclesia Anglicans Ecclesia Catholica, was not published until 1840, but alike in writing and living he endeavoured to establish true doctrine by an orthodox faith and an unspotted life.
Beveridge wrote down the principles by which he would live the pastoral office, `upon his first entrance into Holy Orders’, in Private Thoughts upon Religion digested into Twelve Articles with Practical Resolutions forma thereupon. For Beveridge truth of doctrine and innocency of life are both absolutely necessary for the proper exercising of the pastoral office. He knew the power of example over precept and was concerned to make his own calling and election sure, lest that by any means, when he had preached to others, he himself should be a castaway. `To the End, therefore, that he might both save himself, and them that heard him, that both by his life and doctrine, he might set forth the glory of God, and set forward the salvation of men’ (Preface). In these articles he established his principles in matters of Faith and formed resolutions upon them to regulate his actions.
This resolution follows Article XII: I
believe there are two other Worlds besides this 1 live in, a World of Misery for unrepenting Sinners, and a World of Glory for believing Saints.
1 am resolv’d, Ivy the Grace of GOD to make the Divine Word the Rule of all the Rules 1 propose to myself:
`As the Will of God is the Rule and Measure of all that is Good, so there is nothing deserves that Name, but what is agreeable and conformable thereto: And this Will being fully revealed and contained in the Holy Scripture, it will be necessary for me, in directing my course over the ocean of this world, that I should fix my eye continually upon this Star, steer by this compass, and make it the only landmark by which I am to be guided to my, wished for
Haven. I must not therefore have recourse to the inward workings of my own roving fancy, or the corrupt dictates of my own carnal Reason. These are but blind guides and will certainly lead me into the ditch of error, heresy, and irreligion, which, in these, our self-admiring days, so many poor souls have been plunged in. Alas! how many hath the impetuous torrent of blind zeal and erroneous conscience, born down into a will-worship and voluntary subjection of themselves to the spurious offspring of their own deluded fancies? If the light that is within them doth but dictate anything to be done, or rather, if the whimsey doth but take them, that they must do thus or thus, they presently set about it, without ever consulting the sacred writings, to see whether `tis acceptable to God, or displeasing to Him. Whereas, for my own part, I know not how any thing should be worthy of God’s accepting, that is not of God’s commanding. I am sure the Word of God is the good old way that will certainly “bring me, to my Father’s House; for how should that Way but lead me to Heaven, which Truth itself has chalked out for me? Not, as if it was necessary that everyone of my Resolutions should be contained, word for word, in the Holy Scriptures; `tis sufficient that they be implied in, and agreeable thereto. So that though the manner of my expressions may not be found in the Word of God, yet the matter of my Resolutions may clearly be drawn from thence. But let me dive a little into the depth of my sinful heart, what’s the reason of my thus resolving upon such an exact conformity to the Will and Word of God? Is it to work my way to heaven with my own hands? To purchase an inheritance in the land of Canaan, with the price of my own holiness and religion? Or, to swim over the ocean of this world into the haven of happiness upon the empty bladders of my own Resolutions? No:
`Would the clergy, the younger sort especially, take this method, upon their first admission into Holy Orders (and it ought to be no hard matter to persuade them to it, since `tis the very end and design of their ministry) it could not fail, by the blessing of God of producing very admirable effects. Their principles thus prudently settled would stand the shock, even of a fiery trial; and their resolutions thus maturely formed, would undauntedly bear up against the most powerful temptations’ (Preface)
Arthur Middleton is Rector of Boldon, Hon Canon of Durham and a Tutor at St Chad’s College.