The Sermon at the Opening Service of the General Convention October 2, 1907 in the Church of the Holy Trinity, Richmond, Virginia.
By Arthur Foley Winnington-Ingram, Bishop of London.
No place: no publisher, 1907.
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed.”—St. Matt. xiii, 31.
It is quite impossible to describe the feelings of love and gratitude and even pride, with which an English Churchman must look round upon the great assembly which fills this Church to-day.
Here, bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, is a great sister Church now grown to be as great and important as his own, a great sister church of which he has heard for years, many leading members of which he has seen, but which he now sees in all her representative strength for the first time to-day.
When he thinks over her wonderful origin, her growth, and the part she is bound to play in fashioning the future of this mighty nation, his heart is bound to go out in love to her, in gratitude to God for His goodness to her, and in an honorable pride that he had some share in her being here at all.
And if that would be bound to be the feeling of any English Churchman, how specially keenly must this be the feeling of any Bishop of London?
During the last few months, in the rare intervals of a rather exceptionally busy life, I have endeavored to go into the history of the connection of the Church of America with the See of London.
We have some three thousand documents bearing on the subject in the muniment room at Fulham. I have had these examined afresh, and I have with me some interesting specimens of that continuous correspondence which went on for 170 years. Here with the great seal of Great Britain and Ireland is one of the original letters patent with which the Kings of England handed over to the Bishops of London, except on certain points, [1/2] the spiritual jurisdiction over what was then called his “American Colonies;” here is a touching letter from an Indian Chief in 1713, in what is now the State of Massachusetts, asking for a missionary; here is a list of all the clergy of Maryland, sent by the Bishop of London’s Commissary to him, with their parishes and their characters; here is a letter describing the State of Virginia in 1679; besides these we have at Fulham a very long letter from one of mv predecessors urging and urging again upon the State authorities the absolute necessity of allowing Bishops to be granted to the American Church, and, as a small commemoration of this great occasion, I have printed and published in America before it is published in England, a short account of the history of Fulham Palace and its special connection with the Church of America.
And what comes out of these ancient documents, and that long correspondence? Why, that nothing was too great or too small in those early days of the American Church to be referred across the Ocean to one who was usually “the kindly old gentleman” who lived at Fulham; that, while he raised and was expected to raise £1,000 for William and Mary College, and to inaugurate such great undertakings, no petty trouble was too small for him to be consulted on it, and that, while owing to political reasons, we lost to Scotland the priceless honor of granting Episcopacy to America, yet that it was from no lack of interest and care on behalf of those who in difficult days ever sought to cherish and protect the young sister across the seas. And, I know, dear brothers, that it was largely because of this, and because you wished on your 300th anniversary to recognize this sacred link with the See of London, that you desired my presence with you to-day, and that, in answer to that affectionate desire, I am here.
But we should do ill this morning, if we rested either in brotherly sentiments or in historical reminiscences; the real wonder of this morning, and the real ground of thanksgiving for every Christian in both countries and especially for every Churchman, is that the whole creation of the great Church whose Convention we inaugurate to-day is the direct act of God, that once again the Lord’s prophecy is fulfilled: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed,” and that what we see this morning amounts to nothing less than this,—while Christian men and missionaries and Bishops have done their part the Lord Himself has been working on these American shores, and confirming the word with signs following.
It is not too much to say that 800 years ago the mustard seed was “blown ashore” and might, humanly speaking, have been lost altogether. I know few things more touching than the [2/3] accounts of the first settlement of Jamestown, and the way in which, in spite of cruel and terrible disasters and privations, those early settlers stood by their religion. It is true that one man burnt his Bible and said there was no God: (poor man! one can hardly wonder that the faith of some failed), but the Rev. Robert Hunt, who preached a sermon and marvellously comforted those who heard him, was much more typical of the kind of spirit which animated the first settlers in this land.
Yes! amid storms of adversity, and waves of persecution, and blasts of disappointment, God saw that the grain of mustard seed should fall upon the strand of America, and not only fall but grow into a great tree in whose branches the birds of the air—the 800,000 immigrants which annually without ceasing pour into America—may come and lodge.
By what process, I ask you, was it possible that so tiny a seed should become so mighty a growth? How is it that the Rev. Robert Hunt and his little band of Churchmen have become a great Church with 104 bishops and nearly 5,300 priests and a large body of laymen, whose representatives are with us to-day, except by the fructifying grace of God, by the work of Christ Himself, by the divine energy of the Holy Spirit?
I have often said, that, if I had never believed in Christianity before, I should be bound to believe in it when I see the 215 churches built in the last forty years in London, all living growths and transforming what would be deserts into gardens of the Lord. So, if I had never believed in Christianity before, I should believe in it, as I stand in this pulpit at the 300th anniversary of the American Church to-day.
And I say this, with the most generous recognition of all that other Christian denominations are doing, both in this country and in London to proclaim the witness and to spread the Kingdom of our one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
And that brings me to the main point which I would put before my brothers in America on this notable anniversary to-day,—What are the characteristics of the Church which would possess the future? What are the conditions under which alone the mustard seed which has grown so high already shall fill the world?
In some ways the most inspiring sermon which I ever heard was the last sermon preached by Bishop Lightfoot before a Church Congress. It was on the text: “I will give Thee for an ensign to the Nation:” it was a message to the whole Anglican Communion throughout the World, and the burden of it was this—that the conquest of the World belonged to the Church, which kept its unbroken orders in one hand and an open Bible in the other. Such a saying from one whom from his wonderful [3/4] knowledge of history, and his great balance of mind, we in England looked upon as a prophet indeed, may set us on the track of what I believe to be the true answer to the question I have propounded this morning.
(1) And first undoubtedly, the future can only belong to a Church which believes and preaches the forthreaching, energizing and active Love of God.
God forbid that I should deny the difficulties which surround a belief in the love of God or ignore the stern side of the New Testament; every great light casts a shadow, and he is no true ambassador who belittles the shadow cast by the great Sun of the Love of God. To be out of the warmth of the Love of God is to be in the darkness, and how great is that darkness no one painted more clearly than Jesus Christ Himself. But I have found in East London, and I am sure you have found in every quarter of this Continent, that it is the warmth of the Sun which makes the soul cast off the cloak of its reserve, and not the terror of the darkness.
After all, Why did God make anything except in love? Why are we here at all except as part of the millions whom he created to sun themselves in the sunshine of His own happiness? Why did He redeem the World, except to His Fatherly Heart it was impossible to leave one in the darkness? And no Church will save the World, and especially those thousand millions who have not yet had a chance of making up their minds as to the truth of Christianity, except a Church that believes and proclaims and lives out the love of God to every child that He has made.
(2) And with the gospel of the Love of God must go what we call in England, the message of a free salvation.
It may be that in the past, we may have allowed a legalizing spirit to creep over the Church, and therefore lost such earnest communities as the Wesleyans, because they thought the old bottles would not hold the new wine. But to-day, High Church and Low Church vie in England to preach a gospel of a. free salvation; one school of thought after another, and often from the same stand on the same evening, preach the same tidings —tidings so great that they dwarf into insignificance every dividing line that keeps them apart—that the Eternal Son of God came into this very World in which we live, and gave Himself for His brothers, that the Christian religion does not consist in a belief in a good man named Jesus Christ dying on the Cross, but consists in a belief in the Sacrifice of God Himself.
I have no means of knowing, dear brothers, the trend of religious thought in the United States, but from my experience of East, North, and West London, the future lies with no Church which sinks to what is called the New Theology.
 God forbid we should say a word against any individual man who believes as much as he can of the Christian Creed, but, what we must beware of on both sides of the Atlantic is losing the power of our message by trying to make it easier to be believed.
It is easier, no doubt, to believe that Jesus Christ was only a good man, however difficult to reconcile with the New Testament; it is more comfortable to believe that evil is an undeveloped form of good,—that ‘the devil is a vacuum’; it is more intelligible to the human intellect to look upon the Atonement as the appeal of self-sacrifice to the selfishness of mankind; but, while the human heart craves to know what God has done, while this so-called ‘undeveloped form of good’ is making havoc of our hearths and our homes, while there are sinners who long to know if they can be forgiven, the New Theology is no gospel which will win the World.
When you have once seen a young man spring into the vestry after a mission service with a look of agony on his face, and then seen the look of peace at last when he believed he could be forgiven, nay! was forgiven; when you have once heard a heart-broken girl sob out: “O! God, it is Thee I have sinned against; against Thee!”—as I heard the other day— then you know that the key fits the lock, that the Gospel of salvation is what wins the heart of the world, that a Christian life is not to win salvation, but is, as a Cowley Father calls it in the title of one of his books, ‘‘ a response,’’ and that there is as a matter of fact no other name given any man by which we can be saved, except the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
(3) But it may be said: “Every orthodox Christian community in the world preaches the Gospel of the Love of God and of a free salvation”—in what sense are we justified to-day in the Anglican Communion in keeping our own organization separate from the great non-episcopal bodies on the one hand, and the Roman Church on the other.
And here let me acknowledge the help that I with many others received on our side of the Atlantic from two books that were written on this side more than twenty years ago by Bishop Cleveland Coxe on “Apollos, or the Way of God,” and Bishop Ingraham Kip on “The Double Witness of the Church.”
We do not keep aloof from either in any spirit of unbrotherliness or Pharisaical pride. We long to be one; we pray to be one; we honor and admire all that they have done for the cause of Christ. There is no difficulty in London, and there ought to be no difficulty anywhere in working side by side with them in every cause which makes for the well-being of our common city or nation. The Public Morality Council for London, of which I am chairman, contains representativaes of every [5/6] religious community in London, but in spite of this, we are bound to maintain in opposition to the great non-episcopal bodies, that the historical ministry cannot lightly be set aside in the Christian Church, that, just as every plant has lines of its own on which it develops, so the divine grain of mustard seed carries within itself the organization by which it was meant to spread throughout the world. Again and again, has this, as well .as the Gospel of free salvation, been shown effective in the history of the Church. It was the ordered ministry and strong organization of the Church which saved the Christian religion for Europe, when the Goths burst upon Rome and swept it away; and it was the Church which, as a matter o£ fact, converted the conquerors. And again, leaping over the ages, to come to your own Virginia, when other political causes into which I need not enter, had almost swept away the Church from this part of America altogether, yet, once given the chance, just as a plant, trampled under foot but not dead, will lift its head, and the bent stalk will straighten itself again, when the weight is lifted off, so in the marvelous revival of the Church of Virginia, we see once again the justification in history of Church order, Church ministry, and Church worship.
The Church of the future must undoubtedly possess the unbroken ministry and the historic Sacraments which you possess in the Church of America to-day; “Hold fast that thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”
(4) But, when I turn to the far more delicate question, as to why we do not seek reunion under present conditions with that great historic Church which numbers, I know, so many adherents in America, and which undoubtedly shares with us the gifts of an unbroken tradition and Sacraments consecrated by duly ordained ministers, I gladly avail myself of some words written at my request for my use to-day by one of the most honored bishops of the Anglican Communion, honored. I hope, on both sides of the Atlantic—I mean Bishop King, of Lincoln. I asked him to write down for me what he considered the special characteristics and special function of the Anglican Communion, and those who remember what was called the Lincoln trial in England, will know how little he can be considered prejudiced towards what is sometimes called a Protestant view of the Christian faith. And this is what he writes:
“The special function of the Anglican Communion is to preserve the exact truth. She must protest against any additions to or subtractions from the teaching of Holy Scripture, and the early and undivided Church.
“The Church of Rome appears to us to err in the use of authority in relation to the Truth. The universal supremacy of a single see, and the infallibility of an individual bishop are extreme instances of this. The ecclesiastical use of authority in relation to individual conduct, such as compulsory confession and attendance at Mass, seem to endanger the freedom of individual action, and therefore to weaken the moral life—obedience must not be put in the place of Truth. We give authority chiefly an educational place with regard to Truth. Authority introduces us to the Truth, and then trusts to the faculties of the individual (the mind, heart, conscience, will,) under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to apprehend that Truth: We wish people to say: ‘Now we believe, not because of thy saying, for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the World.’”
I believe it would be difficult to state in clearer words the difference between the “fatherly” authority as given to the Church by the Anglican Communion, and the authority as taught and practiced in the Church of Rome. We believe, moreover, in a Catholic Church which is not afraid in any land of the idea of a national Church. And already in far Japan, England and America are working together in the common work of fostering “the Holy Catholic Church of Japan,” to be the soul of that great and growing nation.
But, it may be asked: “Why is the ‘exactness’ of Truth of so much account?” No one can really ask that question who realizes that two-thirds of the human race has yet given no opinion on the truth of Christianity, and that the whole question as to whether the Truth of God will commend itself to their consciences and win their hearts may depend upon the purity and accuracy, and therefore upon the power, with which that Truth reaches them through the human medium which God has seen fit to employ.
(5) But, after all is said and done, the most Evangelistic, the most Catholic, the most Orthodox Church on earth will produce no effect upon the world if it has not still one further characteristic. It must clearly and unmistakably and before all the world be unworldly itself.
The mustard seed is planted in the earth, but it will never grow and expand and flourish without the light and air of Heaven.
Bear with me, then, when I say as my last word, that the greatest danger of the Church on both sides of the Atlantic is worldliness.
In one sense it is impossible for the Church to mix too freely with the world. Into the slums of East London, into the business of Wall Street, among the wild tribes of the mountains, into the midst of the mining camps at Klondyke, the Church [7/8] must go, and no human interest in the world is outside the interest of the Church.
But, on the other hand, to catch the spirit of “push,” to run a church as a man runs a successful business, to depend upon cleverness and management, rather than the grace of God, to neglect prayer and intercession in favor of influence with the Press, to lower the teaching of the Church or its moral standard in order to suit an easy and self-indulgent age, is to spell ruin and failure and shame for the most orthodox Church in the world. In a voice which still rings down the centuries, Jesus Christ Himself proclaimed: “My Kingdom is not of this world.”
Only a Church whose weapons still are faith and hope and love and prayer can hope to win the world.
And so, I have brought for you from the old world to the new, this message, the simplicity of which I should be ashamed if it did not come from my heart. The mustard seed blown ashore three hundred years ago, has taken root, it has grown into a great tree, it will send forth seeds of its own for the health and purity of the nations. See to it that the great American Church, so Apostolic in its origin, so Catholic in its Creed, so heroic in its history, is also so devoted and unworldly in its life and work that it shall take a worthy part in molding the future of the world, and have for its blessing and reward the gratitude and love of hundreds of millions of souls.