"Ministering the means of pardon and grace": rejoicing in Anglicanism's native piety

What is particularly striking about Wordsworth's pastoral letter is it joyous affirmation of the vitality of the ordinary practices and rhythms of Anglicanism.  Against the Puseyite attempt to "recommend private Confession as a regular practice" and thus "strangely to pervert" the teaching of the Prayer Book, Wordsworth celebrates Anglicanism's native piety.  A central feature of the Pastoral is the re-assertion of the classical High Church teaching on the efficacy of the absolution at Mattins, Evensong, and Holy Communion:

it is evident that the Church of England intends that the words publicly pronounced by the Priest in Absolution should be regarded as having power to convey a comfortable assurance to those who are conscious to themselves of sin and also of sincere faith and repentance. She expressly calls each of these forms an Ahsolutlon; and her intention is to certify every penitent and faithful person there present, and confessing his sins to God, Who searcheth the heart, that God, Who alone can forgive sins, uses and blesses the ministry of His chosen and appointed servant the Priest, and gives remission of sins by means of the ministry which Christ has instituted; and that so our Lord's promise is fulfilled, "Whatsoever ye shall loose" (literally shall have loosed) on earth, shall be loosed in heaven; (Matth. xviii. 18).

Against Puseyite assertions that a fuller form of absolution is required than these, Wordsworth declares:

thanks are due from us to Almighty God that He had put it into the mind of the Church of England to place these forms of Absolution in her Office.

What is more, in the ordinary ministry of the parish, Wordsworth points to the means of grace which make present and effective the Lord's gift, "Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven".  Interestingly, he first considers the ordinary, routine ministry of preaching as a means of how "this ministerial work of remission [is] performed":
Thus, then, the Ministers of Christ are rightly said to remit sins, because they awaken men from the sleep of sin, and dispose them to repentance by setting before them the terrors of the Lord for the guilty, and the promises of life eternal to the faithful, and by proclaiming in God's Name free pardon to all who repent and believe, through "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son which deanseth from all sin," (1 John i. 7,) and by preaching that "Word which God, Who alone can remit sins by His own power, has appointed and commanded to be preached for the remission of sins.

Secondly, he points to the administration of Holy Baptism:

Next, the Priests of the Church may be rightly said to remit sins, because they minister the Holy Sacrament of Baptism which Christ has instituted for the remission of sins. St. Peter, having received a commission from Christ, preached in his first sermon this exhortation, "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. (Acts ii. 38, cp. Acts xxii. 16, Eph. v. 26.) And, therefore, we say in the Creed, " I believe in one Baptism for the remission of sins."

And thirdly, the administration of Holy Communion:

It cannot be questioned that they also comprehend a power to consecrate the Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, which, as our Lord Himself declared, was instituted by Him for the remission of sins (Matt. xxvi. 28), and to give Absolution thereby to all penitent, faithful, and loving receivers of the Holy Eucharist who confess their sins to God. And, therefore, in our Office for that Sacrament, when we are about to confess our sins to Him and to receive those mysteries, we pray to God for grace "so to eat the flesh and drink the Blood of His dear Son, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by His Body, and our souls washed through His most precious Blood."

The Holy Communion is the true ''Sacrament of Penance," after Baptism. It is of divine appointment for the pardon of sins.

It is, then, in the regular ministrations of the Prayer Book, in the ordinary rhythms of the parish, "in ministering the means of pardon and grace, — the Word of God and Sacraments, and Prayer", that the reconciling grace of God is encountered and received.  There is no need for Anglicans to look to and conform to alien norms. Rather, we are to rejoice in the native piety of Anglicanism.
Let us praise God for the blessings He has bestowed on us in the Church of England, where we enjoy, by His mercy, all things necessary for our growth in grace on earth, and for the attainment of everlasting glory in heaven.


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