Project Canterbury

The Sermon delivered by the Rt. Rev. William E. McLaren, D.D.,
Bishop of Chicago
At the Decennary of the Rt. Rev. C. C. Grafton, Bishop of Fond du Lac
at the Cathedral, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

On the Festival of S. Mark, April 25th, 1899.

"Wherefore, I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."—II Timothy i, 6, 7.

The nature of man is the one immutable factor in the evolution of events. In the midst of the changes and developments and the varieties of environment which make up history, he stands unaffected as to the substantial elements of his nature. Man just entering on the twentieth century is essentially the man of the first century. It is because of this unalterable constitution of our nature that we are ever recognizing ourselves in the men of all the past ages, as well as ever learning how to judge them accurately by understanding our-selves. This is one reason, more-over, why the sacred books of the Church are so valuable and so highly appreciated. In telling of the wants, dangers, difficulties, trials and triumphs of other epochs, they are describing our own; and the wisdom of counsel which helped other ages since, is precisely adapted to our own needs, and does in fact become a light to our feet and a lamp to our path.

This thought is suggested with particular emphasis to one who reads with receptive mind the epistles of S. Paul. Where can the apostle of to-day find counsel more fresh and timely to guide him in his work than in those epistles? How wonderfully the ancient picture transforms itself into a portrait to the life, of the new scenes of labor, difficulty, danger and peremptory demand for all the strength there is in a man, in which the modern prelate has his lot appointed to him!

The words of S. Paul addressed to his son Timothy—how appropriate they are to the occasion which brings us together in this Cathedral Church to-day, and what immense stimulus they suggest to those of us who, all-unworthy, wear the honors of the apostolic office; for where is he who does not require to be reminded that he has had to kindle anew, as when one revives a fire, the divinely conferred endowment of grace of the Third Order, which was deposited within him by the sacramental imposition of apostolic hands? And what were the marks of that grace? It was not timidity, or pusillanimity, or the cowardice of compromise, or concession to error; but it was the spirit of authority, and the energy that authority presupposes; and it was the spirit of love, the lamb that should ever lie down with the lion of authority; and it was the spirit of a sound mind or the steady sober-mindedness, the discretion and equipoise of spirit, which is ever necessary for the element of authority to prevent it from degenerating into tyranny, and for the element of love lest it fall into an amiable decrepitude.

May I dwell a little on these elements of grace which, S. Paul teaches us, form the content of the gift of God in Sacramental consecration to the high office which he had and which has been perpetuated in succession to our own times? I add the adjective "sacramental" because, evidently, these special graces belong to the supernatural order. The gift of God to the bishop is something over and above, superior to, and is therefore to be severely differentiated from, the natural gifts which His bounty bestows upon every man in the order of nature. As nature does not supply all men with equality and identity of gifts, neither does nature claim the parentage of all gifts. She cannot account, wholly, for Jesus Christ, nor for the chief events of His earthly career, nor for His peerless character, nor for the survival and persistence of His personal influence in the Church and through It in the World. I think on the contrary that a book might be written which would show how Christianity has wrought specific changes in nature, considered as matter and as mind. For example, what moral force has affected such a change in the physical aspect, condition, and productiveness of this continent? The energy of Missions is at work upon Africa to transform the dark continent. In twenty-five years more, Stanley could not recognize his old trails. What marvellous structural force have the Christian objects imparted to the human mind in the realm of art! Even sceptical art still shows the power of supernatural inspiration. He who denies the supernatural a priori must first account for the facts of supernaturalism by furnishing an undeniably natural basis for them; and this he cannot do. Denial is the beginning and the end of his argument. We deny the competency of nature, but we can produce and exhibit the fruits of supernature. The sacraments demonstrate themselves by products which nature does not bring forth and of which she never had any conception.

a. The gift of opposite virtue to fear is a gift superimposed upon nature by the laying on of hands. It is superimposed. It bears the relation to natural courage which an angel bears to a man. The angel does not belong to the man's plane.

Like every other grace this may be received in vain or partly choked by excess of natural timidity, examples of which may be found in the episcopate; but it is my conviction that nothing stands out more clearly in the history of the Church than this prominent grace of the apostolic order. Time would fail me to recount all the recorded cases of bishops who have endangered or sacrificed their lives by boldly saying, "We ought to obey God rather than men." There has always been an apostolic succession of men of whom it could be said, as it was of S. Peter and John, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John * * * they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus." The statement of episcopal heroism must not be thought to be exclusive, for heaven-descended fearlessness is one of the normal effects of all the sacraments from baptism to the priesthood; but it still stands true that as the first order, and as the ruling order, and as the most widely representative order, having also more extended relations in the world, and as the order which has been most vehemently attacked by the enemies of God as well as by some of His misguided friends, the episcopate is a life fundamentally unwarlike, and has always been the bountiful contributor to the ranks of those who would die rather than forswear Christ. As the conservator of the Faith, as the malleus hereticorum, as the defender of the rights of the Church against the usurpations of the state, as the advocate of righteous peace, as the mediator in great struggles, as the promoter of learning, as the friend of the poor and the champion of the oppressed, this order has filled the annals of Christian heroism. Leaders of the great army of the Faithful, bishops have been made strong by the gift of God to carry forward the standards of Immanuel to the very verge of the battle-line.

The mark of timidity is, therefore, the contradiction of grace, and it shows the preponderance of nature. That natural faint-heartedness has not always been subdued only demonstrates that it is human to err; and, perhaps, there are times and places where environment, long operating on the successive incumbents of this office, has eaten out of their hearts the strength which made a Hildebrand or an à Becket. When we feel surges of impatience rise in our breasts against the prelatic leaders of the English Church, let us remember this; nor let us forget that the Reformation episcopate began under the reign of a brutal monarch who called himself "supreme head," holding in theory and practice that the crown was the source of all jurisdiction spiritual or temporal and has the right of governing the Church just as it had of governing the State. If the extreme claim was modified in subsequent reigns, the Tudor usurpation has never wholly lost its influence in England. We must allow for this, when we consider the proverbial timidity of the bench of bishops there, but God grant that they may stir up the gift which is within them and rise to the level of the greatest opportunity they have ever faced to illustrate episcopal heroism in defense of the truth and of those who are ready to suffer all things for it!

b. With the grace of fearlessness is bestowed the endowment of dynamic authority in spiritual things. All the power which was given unto the head of the Church He promised to His apostles in their doing whatsoever He commanded them, and they were to receive power (dunamin) after that the Holy Ghost was come upon them. In the solidarity of the episcopate dwells the principle of rule and there alone as a Christ-ordered and original power. When it is shared by others, their share is derived, but not inherent; and as the very being of the Church is indissolubly linked with the perpetuated office of the apostle, so its well-being depends upon the recognition of it as the fontal source of all other orders, and there-fore of all other faculties. To reject the treasure of rule because it is committed to the keeping of earthen vessels is to demand of God that he shall administer a vicarious rule only by instruments as perfect as Himself; and a pretty mess they have made of it who have thrust aside the divine method, and made to themselves kings after their own hearts, and almost every man a kind for himself, who is himself. Nor is this altogether a modern evil, for Christian Society attacked by Satan has always been divided by schisms and devastated by heresies. In almost every age, as early as the third and as late as the nineteenth, bodies have existed which simulated the characteristic customs of the Church and its hierarchy. We learn from history that it was not rare to find in one little town of a province of Africa, a Catholic bishop, a Donatist bishop, and a Manichaean bishop, each with his votaries, contesting the faith of the people, and distributing books and catechisms.

The sects of the primitive times disappeared in the due and logical course of events, although it took four centuries for Montanism to disintegrate, while the Church against which these various forms of separatism protested lived on, and absorbed the descendants of those who had supported them. But other heresies and schisms appeared age after age, and will appear, for they are the conditions which arise from the indisposition of the natural man to respect the principle of authority, which is the very foundation of Christianity, resting, as it does, on the Person and the Word of Jesus as its corner-stone, and conserved by His Spirit in the perpetuated apostolate.

I think there is great jeopardy to religion in the lack of discernment of this basic truth now common among us. Within the spiritual order, power resides forever where it was originally deposited, and when it permits itself to flow out into other depositories, the latter do not become, as they are tempted to think they do, original fountains of supply,—they are simply conduits to receive and deliver what is committed to them. In our own Church there have been donations of power so ample that we have made a new departure in the history of the Catholic Church, and have given to the laity a large share in the government and legislation of the Church. It was nicely done, and its fruits have not been disappointing; but it is well from time to time to consider the source of the powers they enjoy, and the derivative character of their privileges, lest the jus divinum of the Church's regimen be unconsciously sacrificed to an exaggerated spirit of democracy.

c. The most puissant defender of the episcopate against all antagonism is the spirit of love. There is ever a whirlwind of temptation striking angrily against the apostolic office to subordinate the contemplative to the active element: whereas, in God's divine plan, its strength is not derived from natural activity, but activity is of value and becomes supernatural only as it proceeds from the interior graces which are the fruits of the Spirit. Both elements are to be cultivated, simultaneously, and "may be united in one person, as the heart and t he arm; and both are to be signed with the seal of the divine lover, which is Charity effective in contemplation: effective in action." "As in the body the heart has a continual movement, but the arms move only at intervals, so we ought to give ourselves always, and under all circumstances, to the life of inward love, and only at appointed times to outward works. And as the heart vivifies the arm by the vital spirit it supplies, so the love of God should animate our exterior occupations by the light, affection, and fervour which it communicates to them." [Buckler p. 298] And where there is great charity there is great effectiveness. For as à Kempis sings:

"Love is a great thing, a blessing very good,
The one thing that makes all burdens light,
Bearing evenly what is uneven,
Carrying a weight, not feeling it,
Turning all bitterness to a sweet savour."

S. Gregory the Great, in his letter to the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, on the pastoral office, "notes two qualities in a pastor,—Compassion and Contemplation, meaning by Compassion that interest in the affairs of the flock which a Bishop is bound to have. The pastor, he says, must be at every one's call by Compassion yet rapt beyond all in Contemplation: kind and considerate to every one, yet ascending even above himself by the loftiness of his gazing and the vehemence of his desire of the invisible. * * * Like Moses he must go in and out of the tabernacle; inside, rapt into contemplation; outside, at the service of all who need him. Within, he ponders the hidden things of God; without, he bears the burthen of things earthly. Thus our Divine Master himself works miracles in the cities, but gives himself to prayer on the mountain side; by this, teaching all pastors that the highest contemplation is to be united with the most compassionate labor for others; for that charity ascendeth to lofty things most admirably when it also descendeth most mercifully to men's necessities, and is truest in kindness to others when it is most energetic in its recourse to its Creator." [Centenary at Downside, p. 36]. A bishop has found the true hiding of his power when, while he rules, he rules in love. Only he can rule in love who obeys in love, and only from the heart of God can he draw the grace of obedience through love. His whole life, even when it is deficient of the loftiest motives, is in a very remarkable degree a life which, hourly to its close, pays itself out in labors, perils, weariness, fighting, burdensome infirmities, the care of all the churches, the weight of the ponderous pressure, in the secrecy of the conscience, of a sense of responsibility which only they can understand who have felt it; and since it is, in, I think, a peculiar degree a vicarious life, a service for others, it follows that they who are continuously imparting should as constantly be receiving from God; and what can God give which makes men more like Himself than love? It is this heaven-descended gift, the spirit of charity, which makes the true worker and soldier, the strong ruler and overseer.

d. Now add to this triad of gifts,—courage, power, love,—the crowning endowment of a sound mind, and you have the complete picture which was in the mind of S. Paul. A sound mind is sanctified common sense, a wisdom that preserves an even balance, heaven's gift to the humble heart that will not shut out divine direction, nor clothe itself in the chain-armour of self-conceit, and that habitually rises to the height of believing that wisdom will come liberally to him that asks it of God. It is not the product of experience, nor the science of old laws and maxims, nor is it based upon the counsels of natural Solons, but it is from above, (anothen): It can say with Him who gives it, "I am from above," but never accomplishes its best in us until we differentiate it from, and keep it from being overinvolved in, natural wisdom. As long as the natural man survives will nature be active and aggressive, and hence wisdom lies in the cultivation of the gracious power of discerning between that which comes from self and that which comes from above, which discernment presupposes love, humility, and prayer. It is a spiritual education to acquire it, but how glorious, for it is the moving upon the great deep of the will of the brooding Spirit of God, made practicable by the love of God, and pointing out what ought to be done and giving strength to do it! Wisdom is charity in action, and is therefore a real guide and counsellor.

It is this charity of which Thomas à Kempis further sings:

"In its vigils it may sleep, but yet it dozes not;
Wearied, it is not worn;
Bound, it is not confined;
Frightened, it is not dismayed;
But like a living flame, a burning torch,
It bursts on high, and safely goes through all."

It is a prudence, a calm and dispassionate equipoise, a gravity of vision, which is imparted by those who possess it to those who need it, not always by words, but always by example, by the general tenor of conduct and the lucidity of motive, by unconscious influence and undesigned actions.

Such are the elements of grace which according to the word of S. Paul form the content of the gift of God in sacramental consecration to the high office which he held and myriads of successors have held. What a magnificent ideal of Divine bestowment it bodies forth! When I first entered Lincoln cathedral, the canon who was with me and who had spent half a lifetime there, exclaimed with a fervid enthusiasm, "Is it not glorious?" So, I think, we may be aroused to warmth of admiration as we gaze upon this portraiture of an apostle. O! that God would pour down upon a mighty influence on all bishops that they may devote their efforts to their own exemplification of this ideal, and enkindle the fires of grace which first became their inner light, when they received the laying on of hands.

Ten years ago it was made my duty to act as consecrator in bestowing the gift of God upon him who became thusly the Bishop of Fond du Lac, and to signalize the close of his first decade of headship are we met today. Far be it from me to offend taste and propriety by fulsome words of eulogy; and yet am I not precluded from paying my loving tribute to one who has not slackened his pace in all these years in pressing toward the goal which S. Paul has so beautifully described. For more than a quarter of a century he had been devoted to the Anglican communion of the life of exclusive devotion to God by surrender of all ordinary relation to persons and things which are in themselves legitimate, and by concentration of all the faculties upon the spiritual life, in community with others of like vocation, with the purpose of imitating in some degree the life of the Lord. Whatever technical designation may apply to this state of life, when the mind gets at the gist of it, it is discovered to be simply the closest approximation to the actual life of Christ which is practicable to man in his present stage of development. Divested of all accidentals and judged without prejudice, it is or approaches the very reproduction of the life of Christ both outwardly and inwardly. I cannot believe that Christ lived His life without anticipating a closer conformity with it by some than is practicable in the ordinary conditions of the disciple's life. Nay, I believe that he exemplified a lofty standard with the intention that it should be aimed at in all its totality by a few that the less perfect conformity might have before it a perpetual concrete reminder of the more perfect, and that the power of the world to dilute and demoralize the ordinary standard might thus be neutralized. This is the proper ideal of the Christly life, and is indispensable to the progress of the Church, however imperfect its realization in those who are called to it. It is this element of imperfection, which has discredited it, but why it, rather than the less heroic standard? Has the latter ever had a sustained exemplification? Has the Church never had to mourn over relaxed conditions among her laity and their pastors? How long is it since that terrible Hanoverian simoon which almost wrecked the Church in England? What is technically known as the religious life, therefore, is the logical sequence of the life of Christ and is absolutely integral to the Church of Christ. Any particular church which lacks it is in danger of the removal of its candlestick. With the revival of long dormant principles in the English Church came the revival of the closer walk with Christ. All honor to God's grace who put it into hearts—of whom our brother was one—that were hungry for the closest imitation of Christ; and has not that grace honored him by making him the first regular priest of the past "reformation" period to be inducted into the apostolic office? The prior life was a remarkable preparation for the elevation, especially when we consider the particular type of community life with which he was so long associated,—a remarkable preparation for the episcopate of Contemplation and Compassion united. Christian perfection ranges itself under three general grades, the active, the contemplative, and the mixed. In its relation to God alone, it is contemplative; but when it has relation at once to the help of one's neighbor and to the contemplation of God, it is mixed. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,"—here is the active; "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,"—here is the contemplative. Martha represents the active. Mary the contemplative, and this, if there is a choice, is "the better part," but the best is the union of the qualities of both. The mixed life is the highest and best. The active is profitable to others; the contemplative to one's self; but the mixed life is profitable to both. The active engages one set of powers; the contemplative another; but the mixed, both. And this is the life which our Divine Lord, His blessed Mother, the apostles, and almost all the close followers of Christ have led. That God calls some to the purely contemplative life we cannot doubt. It is also evident that to some he gives vocation to great and noble works; for there are diversities of gifts and differences of administrations; but the emphatic call to most is to the more perfect life which combines the active and contemplative elements.

The tendency in this land, where the Church is in the plant stage rather than the stage of fruit, and the work pertains to foundations rather than walls—the tendency is to an excess of the active life and this is seen to disadvantage in the episcopate. It was to our brother a blessed privilege to have received his training for the apostolic office where he did, for it has given to his administration something better than the serving of tables, viz. a fine mingling of the external activity with strong devotion to the invisible realities.

As his name has been so long associated with the revival of the "religious" life in the Church in England and in the United States, it may be proper to add that it would not have been reasonable to anticipate for it the highest measure of success at first. More than three centuries of disuse have left their impress on the Anglo-Saxon type of Christianity, by the substitution of a coarse-grained individualism and semi-naturalistic devotion in place of that profound yet practical mysticism which is illustrated in the writing as it was in the lives of those pre-reformation heroes of sanctity, Walter, Hilton, Augustine, Baker and others. The science of sanctity had scarcely one literary exponent, (as an exact science,) since that monstrous Tudor lord broke with Rome, until our day; and even now the product of English mystic theology is rudimentary. We must not hope that the cold granite will regain its ancient glow of fused atoms in a day, nor must we be discouraged by the sluggish process of return. The logic of the Incarnation which has restored so many of its normal sequences will in time bring to birth in all its divine beauty that form of Christian living which most faithfully photographs the life of Christ in all its imitable conditions, and generations of ardent lovers of God shall yet combine their youthful energies under the three-fold banner, and precipitate themselves, in unity of purpose and action, with prayer and self-denial, against our dominant paganism, and by saving religion from submersion make America as the monks made England. O calm sweet voices of the men that are to be, I seem to hear you even now singing the divine office beneath many a sacred roof, lingering long in the silence that comes after, in mystic contemplation rapt, and then I see you going forth, strong soldiers of the Lord, to do battle against the dragon Antichrist with many heads!

Ten years in the diocese of Fond du Lac! A difficult diocese, but difficult in the sense that all dioceses are difficult. The Church has as yet no conquered territory in America, and her whole field is a battlefield. Her enemies, too, are those of her own household as well as the open enemy with whom she never took sweet counsel. We are not overborne by a union of the church and state, but we have no national religion. Every national religion in Christendom has planted itself here, and keeps up its ancient ethos with almost savage fidelity. We have no national religion: we never had one. America has been from its religious genesis a babel of contending sects. What ought to have been a solid oak was hewed to chips by the ax of denominationalism, and every chip applauds the blow, claiming it to be the ideal thing to have many chips rather than one oak. He who stands for unity, and who boldly declares that to prevent Christianity from being submerged under a tidal-wave of paganism it must revert to the compact unity of the city of God as it was founded by Christ—a host encompasseth him about and crieth, How small thou art to use such swelling words!

This church has not a large native clientage, and a good deal that is native has been in much the plight in which Lord Bray confesses many of the English Roman Catholics are,—they are timid and overawed because they are so few and the dominant body so large. Our growth in America is almost wholly one of adhesion, if we include the children of those who come to us. But this element of growth is almost entirely confined to those who left behind them bodies distinctly American. We have not touched, nor can we, with our present methods touch, in any large degree the immigrant peoples who number millions, and have settled in all our northern and western states. Desire them that they may learn the better way, as we may, they do not desire us. They are satisfied with their ancestral ways, or with no way at all. In none of our states, I suppose, does this to us impenetrable problem assume the proportions which it does in Wisconsin. It is a difficult field, and it will continue to be difficult long after you who are now contending with such odds against you will have passed to your rewards. Does this consideration invite apathy and discouragement? Has my brother, his lamented predecessor, and all who have labored with them, expended their strength for naught? O, no! Foundation-building is hard, slow, grimy work, but it is very necessary; and happier is he who puts solid stone in a needed place down in the mire than he who overlays the tips of the pinnacle with gold leaf. We are all foundation-builders, and these organs of sense-vision will never behold the glorious walls that are to go up on our foundations. But there is something better than that, for did not Abraham by faith sojourn in the land of promise as in a strange land, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise? "For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."

When I look over this land and consider how many thousands are finding at our altars something their souls longed for, and how many thousands more there are longing for the same but not yet knowing where to find it; and when I see systems confessedly losing their cohesive power and bemoaning the process of disintegration that has begun, I rejoice that we have so many foundation-builders, and I have faith to anticipate with a sense of triumph the future uproaring of the city of God thereon. Here is this noble poem in stone, this cathedral, begin in faith by dear, heroic Hobart Brown, and in like faith decorated and equipped with all its striking surroundings by his beloved successor; it was builded by men who could read the future, and provide for it—for the dayw hen multitudes shall seek the church, and

"——prize her heavenly ways
Her sweet communion, solemn vows,
Her hymns of love and praise."

Are these the fond imaginations of a too narrow partiality? We think not, for our confident hopes center around the Church as it is to be rather than as it is, only that as it is, with many imperfections, it contains the eternal facts and principles and truth of catholicity, which in the better day shall no longer have to shine through semi-opaque media. No, these are not the dreams of our conceit, but the vaticinations of our faith. This cathedral, built in faith, adorned in hope, and consecrate by use, is also a prophecy; and all over the land are other like prophecies. Their voices may be to some, voices crying in the wilderness, but to our ears they say:

"See a long race thy spacious courts adorn:
See future sons and daughters yet unborn,
In crowding ranks, on every side arise,
Demanding life, impatient for the skies.

"See barbarous nations at thy gates attend,
Walk in thy light and in thy temples bend:
See thy bright altars thronged with prostrate Kings,
While every land its joyful tribute brings."

It is a great honor to be co-workers together with God in the spirit of Him who lighteneth every man that cometh into the world, but the honor grows when we work with Him in the letters of the institutional structure of grace which he has reared and perpetuates. We trust that we shall abase ourselves in the presence of this double honor.

May I present the felicitations to our dear brother of Fond du Lac of our American episcopate, upon the completion of the first decade of his rule? We pray that God may prolong his days and crown them with a continuance of His favor. The upper third of our House as to years have of course reason to feel that the course of nature is inexorable, but the law of death, the Incarnate being its interpreter, commands life forevermore upon those who walk by faith, faithful in His service, unto the end. Soon many of us must gather up our robes, and plash through the little brook that sings of "home sweet home," knowing that as we pass,—it is but a step or two,—we shall hear words of mercy and welcome, and that, at the other side, Rabboni will be there! It is pleasant for cross-bearers to indulge in joyful expectancy of surcease of care and pain, and the problems that pierce like lances; but it is stronger and nobler to wish to stay so long as by staying we can be of any use in His hands. And so, my dear brother, we shall pray for you and you for us that other years may be added to those whose weight begins to tax our strength, in which, please God! we may stir up the grace which has been given us of God by the laying on of hands. It may be to us as it was to Simon. The best fruits of our poor labors may be yet to come. Not ours his characteristic murmuring, if we would profit by the story; not ours to say, "Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing." Nay, rather, while life lasts let us launch out in Altum, into the deep, and let down our nets, and it may be the Master's will that even our dimming eyes may see the net enclose a great multitude of fishes.

Project Canterbury | United States | William E. McLaren