Project Canterbury

From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 7),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp. 313-321


LET me thank you for your kindly welcome. I shall best show my appreciation of it by proceeding at once to my subject. It involves the consideration of some serious religious truths, which would be out of place at any ordinary social dinner, but cannot be regarded as such in what rises to the dignity of a Christian Agape.

The first point to which I would call your attention is our Church's belief in the Blessed Trinity. It is the most reasonable, philosophical, and satisfactory conception the human mind can have of God. There was a gross misconception of it amongst the old Puritan and Congregational divines of New England. They held that there were three distinct, separate individuals who, taken together, composed the Godhead. This was known as Tritheism. It was commonly represented in pictures where the Eternal Father was represented as an old man, the Son as Christ, and the Holy Spirit by a dove. It was against this error that the early Unitarians revolted, proclaiming the oneness of God. They rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, for the Church's doctrine of the Trinity was then here but little known.

God, in the language of St. Thomas, is pure activity or force. He is Spirit. He is Being. In Him are two internal and eternal activities, viz., knowing and loving. These are eternal activities and are ever going on. The Church's teaching is that each of these is self-conscious. Consequently, as self-consciousness is personality, there are three persons in the Divine Life. Now, this conception is the most reasonable one the human mind can form of God. For, being intelligent, He has within Himself the companionship of like infinite intelligence. And being Love itself, He has within Himself the perfect object and fruition of His own love. The Being or primal source is known as the Father, the wisdom or knowing which is begotten of the source is called the Son, the love that binds them together is the Holy Ghost. These necessary internal acts are eternal ones. The Son is ever being begotten. The Holy Ghost ever proceeds. In this blessed jubilation of Being, God lives in eternal bliss.

The other view, which reduces Him to one personality, condemns Him to an eternal solitude. A solitude which is destitute of the companionship and love His nature demands, and would make Him the most miserable of all Beings.

The Church's doctrine is thus, the most rational doctrine concerning God.

Again, consider the Church's belief in the Deity of Christ. We are met with various theories concerning Him; each placing Him in different degrees of elevation, but while admitting that He was in some sense a teacher sent from God, denying that He was God Himself.

Now, we contend that the Church's belief in the Deity of Christ is the most consistent and rational one for a Christian to adopt. It is seen to be such from two indisputable facts. First, that God delivered, by a long, disciplinary process, the world from its sin of Idolatry. He did this largely through the Hebrew race. Through it, the World has been taught that there is but one God. The other fact is that since Christ's coming, at least four-fifths of His followers have worshiped Him as God. You see how illogical, then, the theory is that Christ was not God, but was some created Being or Teacher sent from God. For this involves a contradiction. It supposes that Almighty God, having by the discipline of the Hebrew nation delivered the world from falling into the sin of Idolatry, sent a Teacher into the world who undid His own work and led the larger portion of His followers back into the very sin God had so condemned. Christianity would not, according to this theory, have been a progressive development of true religion, but a retrogression into one of the greatest of sins. The denial of the Deity of Christ is therefore, for any one claiming himself to be a Christian, inconsistent and illogical.

Take again the Resurrection of our Lord and His Virgin birth. We need not detain you with proofs of the former. The fact of the Resurrection rests upon many converging lines of evidence. The Apostolic witnesses were most trustworthy. They laid down their lives for the truth of their testimony. They could not be mistaken. The story of the Resurrection cannot be placed in the category of growing myth and legend, for it was declared, and that publicly, at once. Again, what the Apostles saw was no ghostlike appearance; for our Lord said, "Handle me, and see; for a Spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." The Resurrection was not a mental recurrence of one who had departed, but whose teachings remained in their memory; for some of the greatest truths of the Master were revealed to them after the Resurrection. The Resurrection, moreover, is the necessary fact which accounts for the transformation of the timid Apostles into heroes and martyrs. It alone can account for the existence and permanence of the Catholic Church. "As the Church is too holy for a foundation of rottenness, so She is too real for a foundation of myth." As to the Virgin birth, it is reasonable. For as the exit of our Lord by His Resurrection and Ascension was a supernatural one, so we may logically infer that His entrance into the world would be equally unique. The Virgin birth in which the Church believes we may observe cannot be called a miracle, if by miracle we mean a violation of nature's recognized law. For our Lord was, if we believe His word, a preexistent Being. He declared that "before Abraham was, I am." He declared that he had a life and a glory with the Father before the world was. He declared He had come down from Heaven; He was by His own testimony a personal preexisting Being.

Now, for a preexisting Being to take upon Himself our nature by a single parentage involves no violation of any known law of nature. On the contrary, for a personal preexisting Being to have a double parentage and yet preserve a single personality would require a miraculous interference with the ordinary laws of nature. We may then safely rest on the Church's Creed. Our Lord declared that He came down from Heaven, St. Joseph declared he was not His father, and the Ever Blessed Mother gave the account of His conception to St. Luke, the physician and evangelist. The hope implanted in humanity and shown by heathen ideas of fabled incarnations found its fulfilment in the true one of Jesus Christ. The Church's belief is both uncon-tradicted by nature's laws, and gives the only satisfactory and reasonable explanation for the existence of the Church.

Take again the matter of Sacerdotalism and Sacraments. It was part of the Divine plan of reconciliation that under Christ, the Great High Priest, there should be other priests and prophets subordinate to Him. It is but following out the natural order and dispensation of Divine Providence, which bestows special gifts and power on some men for the benefit of their fellows. There are thus priests of wealth, priests of knowledge, priests of political power, priests of medical science, priests of the law, and in the Church of Christ, while there are gifts of a personal character, there are also those which belong to her as a corporate body. In this body Christ has ordained that some should represent Him in a special manner in His prophetical, kingly, and priestly offices. Sacerdotalism is thus a rational system in conformity with God's laws in nature. So it is in respect of the sacraments. God does not give or sustain our life immediately by the exercise of His own power, but through ordained instrumentalities. We receive the gift of natural life through human agents and must breathe the air and take our food in order that it may be sustained. So the Church comes to us with the gifts of sacramental Grace. They unite us to the Divine Humanity of Christ, and we become members of a new race. We receive the strengthening gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. We are fed with the body and blood of our Lord in the Eucharist. Our Church would have no right to go into communities, where there were already existing religious bodies, if she did not bring gifts which the Sects through having lost the priesthood and Confirmation and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, cannot bestow. The possession of these gifts of grace by the Church is seen by the results in those who faithfully use them. The world apart from the Church may produce men of certain moral virtues, like Marcus Aurelius or an Emerson; and outside the Church a certain type of the Christian life may be found, but without the full gifts which Christ left His Church, men cannot ordinarily be transformed and elevated to the sanctity of the Saints or to the martyrs and confessors and religious who adorn the Catholic Church.

There are two thoughts with which we will conclude. Lately, we have seen that some of our Unitarian friends have felt aggrieved that they were not invited to cooperate in the federation of those Evangelical bodies which believe in the Deity of Jesus Christ. I have ventured to maintain that the Unitarian system which in the beginning was a natural revolt against Calvinism is unphilosophical and an illogical one, and this attitude of mind, on their part, seems to confirm this conclusion. For, if Jesus Christ is not Almighty God, we who worship Him as such are, in the language of the New Testament, holding "damnable heresies" and are guilty of the grievous sin of Idolatry. The Unitarians, therefore, should not feel aggrieved at being excluded from the company of those who, from their standpoint, should be regarded as detestable Idolaters. As their system is illogical, their conduct is inconsistent.

Lastly, as believers in a revealed and so supernatural religion, and living within the spiritual organism of Christ's Church, we can find no fault with those who, not being within it, say they cannot believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, the Deity of our Lord, our Lord's Resurrection and His Virgin birth, and the Sacraments. The impossibility of their accepting these truths is another proof of the consistency and rationality of the Church's Faith. For these great truths cannot be known by reason alone or by the natural man. The only way the full revelation of God to man in Jesus Christ can be known is by one's becoming a little child in mind and heart and entering within the Spiritual Kingdom of the Church of Jesus Christ, wherein He dwells, wherein He illuminates its members with His Holy Spirit, and by its Sacraments unites them to Himself so that they not only know the truth, but are united to Him who is the Life and the Truth itself, and in whom He fulfils His blessed promise concerning Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that we will love him, and that we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. Devout and faithful Churchmen do not merely hold religious opinions, but they know with divine certainty the truth and are by union with the deified humanity of Christ elevated into a higher participation of the Divine Nature than comes from the immanence of God, and are made the Sons of God and inheritors in Christ of Eternal Life.

Project Canterbury