MITCHELL AND HATHEWAY
RACINE COLLEGE, Aug. 31, 1875.
TO THE CLERGY AND LAITY OF THE DIOCESE OF ILLINOIS, IN CONVENTION ASSEMBLED:
On the 4th of February, 1875, I was elected by the Diocese of Illinois, to be your Bishop. Informed of the election by a Committee, appointed for that purpose by the Convention of the Diocese, I shortly afterwards accepted it.
From that time until the present day, I have received no official announcement as to the action of the Standing Committees; nor do I know of any provision in the Constitution or Canons of the church that requires a Standing Committee to inform the Standing Committee of the Diocese which has elected a Bishop, of the rejection of his papers; nor the Standing Committee of the Diocese, where he has been elected, to inform the Bishop elect that a majority of the Standing Committees have failed to act affirmatively upon the papers laid before them. This, however, is but a slight imperfection compared to others in a system, unknown during eighteen centuries to any branch of the Catholic church, which can permit the votes of numerous bodies of clergy and laity to come between the free choice of a Diocese and the Bishops, who are appointed of God to increase, as well as to guard, the order to which they belong.
Of course, I know from common rumour that a large majority of the Standing Committees failed to accept the papers laid before them. I am well aware from the resolutions of at least one Standing Committee, and from the same rumour, that the reason of this failure was that I am believed to hold unsound doctrine as to the Holy Eucharist. The accusation is based upon a quotation, generally wrested from its context, from a speech made by me in the General Convention of 1871. On four occasions since, I have pointed out that the interpretation given by church newspapers was based upon a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation of my views. These occasions were, first, in a correspondence between myself and the Rev. Dr. Craik, of Louisville, shortly after the General Convention of 1871; second, in a theological defence made before a Council of the Diocese of Wisconsin, in February, 1874, and afterwards published; third, in an article published in the "Church and the World," in the autumn of the same year; and fourth, in a speech made at the last session of the General Convention.
It has seemed surprising, if my words uttered on one occasion are to be regarded as a truthful exposition of my views on a confessedly difficult subject, that my explanations of those words carefully written and expressed on so many occasions should not be regarded as of at least equal weight.
It seems due, however, to the time and occasion which lead me to address you, to the subject itself worthy of our deepest meditation, and to my own character assailed in that which is dearest to me, my loyalty to the church of God, that I should once again, as simply as the mysterious subject of which I must speak permits, state the doctrine I hold with respect to the Lord's Supper.
I. The doctrine of the Holy Eucharist is closely connected with the mediation of the Son of God. Our Lord has told us, that "No man cometh to the Father but by Him." St. Paul has told us, that "There is but one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus." The same apostle has declared, that the "New and living way into the Holiest" is "through the veil, that is to say, His Flesh."
The priesthood of our Lord is a part of His mediatorial office. "He is a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec." Because He is a Priest "He must have somewhat to offer," else "He could not be a Priest," and because He is a Priest "forever," the offering must be as perpetual as the Priesthood.
This offering is the Atoning Sacrifice of the Son of God; offered in will before all time, for He was the Lamb "foreordained before the foundation of the world;" offered in will in time, when, at the institution of the Eucharist, He said, "This is my Body which is being given for you," "This is my blood which is being shed for you;" offered in time, in sorrow, suffering and death, upon the cross of Calvary, never again thus to be offered; and pleaded by his intercession, while His mediatorial kingdom shall endure, for us men and for our salvation.
It is by the presence of our Lord's human nature in heaven, still bearing, so Christians have been wont reverently to believe, the marks of His Passion, that our Lord pleads what once It endured. What the nature of this memorial pleading is we may not say. "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard it." We are only told that He "ever liveth to make intercession for us," and that to the "Lamb as it had been slain," "in the midst of the Throne" is directed the adoring worship of angels in heaven, and the redeemed on earth and in paradise.
It is by union with the human nature of our Lord that we have access unto God; and it is the work of God the Holy Ghost, to unite us to Christ. Thus the Apostle says, "Through Him we have access by one Spirit unto the Father."
The Holy Eucharist is the doing in the sensible world, by God's appointment under material forms, what Christ our Head and Chief is ever doing in the spiritual world. There is an earthly altar, and a human priesthood, and bread and wine; but Christ is really present as priest, and offering, and the food of the faithful who feed upon the sacrifice. One would expect that since Christ is in the Eucharist as priest and offering. His human nature, by the presence of which in Heaven He ever pleads for us what once It endured, should also be in the Eucharist; and so we find that He said of the elements: "This is my body which is being given for you." "This is my blood which is being shed for you." And again: "He that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me."
The controversies of the times compel us to go further than this simple assertion of the presence of Christ. God and man in one person, in the Holy Eucharist, to declare that while we assert our belief in the presence, we refuse to define the mode or manner of the presence.
We do not affirm with the Roman Catholic, that it is by transubstantiation, or the annihilation of the substance of the bread and wine, and the substitution for it of the substance of Christ's body and blood.
We do not affirm (if there be any who do), that it is by consubstantiation or impanation; namely, that "the substance of the Lord's body and blood co-exists in union with the substance, of bread and wine, as iron and fire are united in a bar of heated iron."
We do not affirm that it is by identity of substance, that is, that the substance of the Eucharist is at one and the same time the substance of bread and wine and the substance of Christ's body and blood.
We refuse to explain away the mystery by saying that the holy elements are mere figures or images or symbols of Christ's absent body and blood. In short, we accept no device or explanation of human reason, and where Christ and the church have refused to define, we refuse to define also.
The only word which the church has used to express, without defining the fact of the presence, is the word "SACRAMENTAL," and so I hold that Christ's human nature is in sacramental union with the consecrated elements. This presence is called REAL, to show that it is no mere figurative or symbolical presence. It is called SPIRITUAL, to show that it is no visible, carnal, material or local presence; "for that which is seen is not real; that which is material is dissoluble; that which is local is but partial." This presence is also called spiritual, because it is the especial work of God's Holy Spirit to make Christ's human nature present, for the third Person of the adorable Trinity has come "not to supply Christ's absence, but to accomplish His presence."
Thus whenever and wherever I have asserted that Christ is present "in the elements," "under the form or species of bread and wine," I mean thereby that He is there present sacramentally and spiritually, and thus really and truly.
II. To Christ present in Heaven as "the Lamb as it had been slain," the book of Revelation tells us is addressed the worship of all the creation of God. Can it be wrong to believe that worship is due by every Christian to the Lamb of God, thus sacramentally present in the Eucharist?
The word worship, without considering its figurative applications, may be used to express three different ideas.
1. It may mean that surrender of body, soul and spirit, which is due to each person of the blessed Trinity, at all times, and in all places, and under all circumstances; so that "whatsoever we do, we do all in the name of the Lord Jesus."
2. The especial regards of love, joy, fear, gratitude, reverence, honour, etc., whenever these feelings are called forth by any act done for us, or to us, by Almighty God. Especially are these feelings to be given to our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, because:
(a.) Being omnipresent, He is present there as God, and His human nature is there by way of conjunction and by way of co-operation.
(b.) Because His human nature is there present sacramentally to be imparted to us, and where It is, He must be. And since He is there to unite us to Himself, "to make us one with Him and He to become one with us," then, if ever, is this worship of the heart to be given to the Lord who bought us.
3. Outward bodily acts of worship, corresponding to these inward regards of love, fear, gratitude, etc., the nature of which, whether by standing or kneeling, or in whatsoever way, should be directed by the church, our mother, to whose direction I loyally and humbly submit myself.
It is sometimes said, however, by those who accept the doctrine of the real presence of the body and blood of Christ, in the Holy Eucharist, that worship to Christ sacramentally present should not follow, because Christ is only to be worshipped as at the right hand of God.
Christ has, indeed, "ascended into the Heavens." He is "set down at the right hand of the Majesty on High."
Wheresoever His glorified human nature is, since it can never be separated from His divine person, "no, not for the twinkling of an eye," thither must our hearts ascend as they who are homesick for a better land. But while this is the truth of God, is it right to say that worship is to be addressed to Him only at the right hand of God? To say that He is to be worshipped only there, is either to deny the sacramental presence of His human nature in the Holy Eucharist, and thus limiting the powers and properties of His glorified body, "to be wise above that which is written," or else it is to be guilty of a grave theological error.
Theologians assert that while we ought to worship the human nature of our Lord, we only worship It as it subsists in, and cannot be separated from, His divine Person.
They say that while It should be worshipped, yet It is not at the same time the cause or reason why It is worshipped. On the other hand, they declare that the divine Person of the Son of God is both to be worshipped, and is also the cause or reason of the worship which is offered to Him. To limit, therefore, the worship of God in Christ, to that place and that place only, where His human nature is believed loyally to be (the sacramental presence of His human nature in the Eucharist being at the same time granted), is to make that human nature not only a thing to be worshipped, but (and in that very relation in which It is most human) also the cause or reason why It is worshipped, and thus to do what some are accused of doing, to deify the human nature of Christ.
There is a sense indeed in which it may be right to say, that Christ is only to be worshipped as at the right hand of God. If all things are double, the one against the other, if the spiritual and material worlds are, so to speak, interlaced; if were our eyes only opened we could see the "horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha," and were our ears rightly attuned, we could hear celestial harmonies; if the sacraments were the doors of entrance into this spiritual world, then might it be conceived that the presence of Christ at the right hand of the Father, and His sacramental presence in the Eucharist are one and the same, and the adoration given to the one is adoration given to the other; for then, if ever, are we made "to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
I do not believe, my brethren, that this doctrine has ever been rejected by our church. I do not believe that it is a doctrine which our church merely tolerates, but that it is the lair and reasonable interpretation of her liturgy and formularies, and when more fully understood will be accepted with loving hearts by all her faithful children. If it be said that the fact that the members of the church do not generally accept it is a proof that the church does not hold it; it is sufficient to reply that the history of the American church proves that she has steadily grown into a fuller and deeper appreciation of her Catholic heritage, and that every one who has been called to proclaim the forgotten truths has done so with the notes of reproach and suffering for Christ's sake. That it should be otherwise, as the great blessing of the Sacramental Presence of Christ in the Eucharist begins to be more fully realized, is not to be looked for. So far as the present case is concerned, though he cannot take to himself the comfort of the thought just expressed, because of his unworthiness, it cannot be denied that the general impression prevails, within and without the Church, that the rejection of your Bishop elect is the condemnation of him and of his views. It is quite true that no one could seriously maintain that any doctrine could be condemned, by a majority of forty-five distinct bodies like the Standing Committees, who have never received any "authority in matters of faith," and before whom the doctrinal question has never been argued nor even fairly considered. This were to usurp the functions of a Synod, and to do what no Synod of the Church of God ever dared to do without argument, consideration and testimony.
It has indeed been maintained that the rejection of the Bishop-elect only means that is lawful for a Presbyter to believe and to teach what unfits him for the office of a Bishop. But a doctrine taught is either a blessing to men or imperils their souls. It is inconceivable that the church can allow a Presbyter to teach to the souls committed to his charge, what she would not allow a Bishop to teach to the larger number. This were to accuse her of the dreadful sin of making little account of the souls of her children.
One of two things must, however, be true, either the Standing Committees have rejected the papers of the Bishop elect on insufficient grounds, and thus have interfered with the free choice of the Diocese of Illinois, or else it must be granted that he is amenable to trial and discipline, and is a disloyal Presbyter of the church.
In the former case it would seem to be the duty of the Diocese, for its own sake, for the sake of the independence of Dioceses, for the true prosperity of the church of God, believing that a great cause has been committed to it, to maintain its rights so long as it may, and to submit only under solemn protest.
To give up the Presbyter you have elected, to make no further effort to correct the known misrepresentations or misunderstanding of his views, to regard the decision of the Standing Committees as final, before every attempt had been made to show them the truth, would seem, no doubt, to many, to be the accepting of the latter alternative. It would not be surprising if they should feel, in this view of the case, that the placing the elected Presbyter in circumstances where he may have received a deep injury to his theological character, and the leaving him there undefended, unprotected and unsustained, could not be the part of honour or of righteousness.
And yet there are very grave considerations of an opposite sort which may well influence any thoughtful mind. If the previous election were to be re-affirmed and the Standing Committees were to be asked to reconsider their action, or if a new election were to be gone into to remove any supposed difficulties about the former, and the papers were to be anew submitted to the Standing Committees, one might well doubt whether there could be any material change in the action of these bodies.
To remove misconceptions, to correct misunderstandings is the work of time, and is the harder in proportion as these misconceptions are conscientiously held. Besides, it may riot be any disrespect to the Standing Committees to say, that they are popular bodies, elected by popular bodies, and are likely, ordinarily, to represent the average tone of Churchmanship, whatever it may be. Surely it is true that the average tone of Churchmanship in this country does not accept high sacramental doctrine. Neither is it surprising, nor a reason for discouragement that it should be so. It is true of this as of every other deep truth. It takes time for it to work its way to the heart. It grows in secrecy and in silence. It is helped by patient endurance and loving prayer. If it ever works a sudden and mighty conversion, it is only by the utter self sacrifice of the Saints of God. It has no place in that ecclesiastical atmosphere where questions of expediency are often paramount, and for its full acceptance we must wait God's good time, and hope and pray, that He who alone can make men to be of one mind in a house may bring it to pass
It might indeed be said that even a renewed condemnation ought to be submitted to, and that the Diocese ought to maintain its right of choice, and the Presbyter whom it believes to be unjustly rejected, through whatever difficulties; but there is another consideration of still graver moment.
Brethren, I could not have accepted, as I did, the election of the Diocese, had I not realized in some poor way what might be done with the help of God by a Bishop of Illinois.
Strong are the foundations already laid by the Bishop who has gone to his rest. Everywhere the field is white to the harvest. Towns and cities are calling for help for perishing souls, and above all your chief city, which has been to me almost a home for so many years, which is endeared to me by a thousand ties, and kindnesses I can never forget, pleads for work and toil which should correspond to its might, its needs, and be an example of work bravely done to every part of this mighty West.
My brethren beloved in Christ, it may well be thought that you ought not to wait for misconceptions to be removed for a Bishop for Illinois.
Torn then, as generous hearts must be, by conflicting duties, drawn in one way by grave constitutional rights and tender personal considerations; drawn in another by the needs and sorrows of this stricken Diocese, I feel it my duty to adopt a course which leaves at least the great principles involved unharmed.
In the name of the great Head of the Church, who bought it with His Blood, declaring my loyalty to its doctrine, discipline and worship-protesting against my rejection by the Standing Committees, as an injury done (I believe unwittingly) to truth and justice, I withdraw my acceptance of the election to the Bishopric of Illinois, and implore you at your present Convention, asking the help of the Holy Ghost, forgetting all past difficulties, to elect some other Presbyter as your Bishop, one who shall be full of the love of Jesus, and zeal for the souls for which lie died, and who can lead forth the sheep of the fold "in the paths of righteousness" "to the still waters of comfort."
Brethren, I cannot be your Bishop, but as your brother and friend, I commend you to God and the Word of His Grace, that "when the Chief Shepherd shall appear we may receive together the crown of righteousness which fadeth not away."
I am your servant in Christ,
From the Journal of the Thirty-eighth Annual Convention of the Diocese of Illinois, September, A. D. 1875.
Immediately after the organization of the house on the first day of Session:
On motion, the rules of order were suspended for the purpose of presenting to the Convention a communication from the Rev. James DeKoven, D. D., Warden of Racine College, elected to the Episcopate of the Diocese of Illinois, at the Special Convention of February, A. D. 1875.
The communication was presented, and,-on motion, was referred to a Special Committee to consist of three clergymen and two laymen, who were ordered to report at this Convention.
The Chair appointed as said Committee
The REV. GEORGE F. CUSHMAN, D. D.
The REV. CHESTER S. PERCIVAL.
The REV. RICHARD F. SWEET.
Mr. S. C. JUDD,
Mr. S. H. TREAT.
On the third day of the session, the Committee presented and read as follows:
The Committee, to whom was referred the communication of the Rev. James DeKoven, D. D., Warden of Racine College, to the Convention of the Diocese of Illinois, have had the same under consideration, and respectfully report, and unanimously recommend the adoption hy the Convention of the following Preamble and Resolution:
WHEREAS, The Rev. James DeKoven, D.D., Warden of Racine College, has addressed to the Convention of the Diocese of Illinois a communication, calm, dignified and eloquent, full of tenderness, pathos and power, in which, after defining clearly and distinctly his doctrinal views, and professing his unswerving loyalty to the Church, Ire withdraws Ids name as the Bishop-Elect of this Diocese; and,
WHEREAS, The communication will be placed upon the minutes of the Convention, therefore be it
Resolved, That this Convention further records this expression of its unchanged confidence in the entire soundness in the faith, the unshaken loyalty to the Church, and the eminent fitness for the Episcopate of the Rev. James DeKoven, D.D., Warden of Racine College, who was, at the Special Convention in February last, elected to the vacant Episcopate of this Diocese.
The REV. GEO. F. CUSHMAN, D. D.
" C. S. PERCIVAL.
" R. F. SWEET.
S. Corning JUDD,
S. H. TREAT.
On motion, the resolution presented by the Committee on the Communication from the Rev. James DeKoven, D. D., Warden of Racine College, was adopted.
The vote on this question having been called for by Orders, there were of the Clergy, in the affirmative, thirty-nine; in the negative, twelve. There were of the Lay vote, in the affirmative, twenty-five; in the negative, thirteen.
On motion, the Secretary of the Convention was directed to transmit to the Rev. James DeKoven, D. D., a copy of the Report and Resolution, and a record of the action of the Convention thereon.