From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 8),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp. 397-408
SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. I. Pet. III: 15.
THE Christian religion is a reasonable religion. St. Paul desired that his converts should be able to give to others a reason for the Faith that was in them. If it was a duty then, it is more necessary now, when Christians are unfortunately so divided. The divisions among Christians must be painful to our Lord, who prayed that His followers might be one. For the original causes of division, we who are living are not responsible. We are responsible, however, for aggravating them, and not seeking after union. One great cause of our mutual estrangement is our ignorance of one another's teaching. Nothing will so do away with prejudice and develop charity as a true understanding of each other. Each Christian body emphasizes some neglected truth and each has suffered some losses. It is now an especial duty that we all strive to learn our own defects and others' goodness and to learn of one another and be able to give an intelligent reason for the faith that is in us.
The Anglican or Episcopal Church rests for its faith on Jesus Christ. What He was and said and did is the revelation of God to man. He is not to us a mere historical person, who lived 1900 years ago, but a living person dwelling in His Church. For He promised not only to send the Holy Ghost, but Himself to be with us, and to abide in His Church to the end of the world. Unlike all other religious teachers, He not only abides with us, but gives Himself to us. Thus He promised to come unto us and make His abode with us. It is the personal knowledge of an indwelling Christ that is the basis of our Faith.
We not only believe in Him, but surrendering ourselves to Him, come to know Him. Our Church brings out thus as a basis of Faith the present and indwelling Christ.
How are we to know what He taught and would have us believe? There was a theory, amongst non-Catholics, that each person was to study the Bible for himself, and believe what he there discovered. But printing on paper was not discovered until the fifteenth century, and the Bible could not have been generally in the hands of the people. This rule also is shown by experience not to have worked very well, as men with the best intentions and scholarship have become divided as to the meaning of Holy Scripture. It is not thus the rule given by Christ. His rule was, "Hear the Church." The Church teaches her children. The Bible is seen by them to corroborate her teaching.
It is a safe rule if we desire to know what Christ taught, to listen to the teaching of His Church in which He dwells by His Spirit, and through which He speaks. We all know that on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Ghost came down and dwelt in the Church. He came not only on the Apostles, but on the whole body of Christians. It is thus not to the Ministry alone we are to look as our sole guide and teacher, but to the whole body of the Church, clergy and laity. It is what the whole Church has from the beginning and throughout the ages, and to-day agrees in; what in other words the general Christian consciousness declares to be true, and to be Christian teaching, and has experimentally found to be so, -that is our safe guide. For it would be impossible to believe in our Lord as a divine Teacher, and believe that He had so imperfectly taught, or not guided His Church that it had permanently and wholly fallen into error.
Do we ask where we may find the record of this teaching? The practical answer is, it is to be found in the universally accepted Creeds, that is, the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, and set forth in the Sacraments which witness to the Faith, and bring its grace to us. What is thus certified to us by the whole Church is Catholic Doctrine. We can so rest upon it, assured that it is infallible truth. At the same time, what is not so witnessed and declared to be of the essential faith, we may regard as matters of pious private opinion, about which Christians may lawfully differ.
It is upon this broad, strong position the Anglican Church stands and authoritatively teaches. She is at once Catholic and also liberal.
Also in the Anglican Church we find a harmonious combination of authority and reason. They are not found, as is sometimes supposed, to be contrary one to the other. Our Church teaches us with authority, but with maternal authority. She is our Mother. She does not come to us with a big stick, and say: "You've got to believe this, because I say so, or you'll be damned!" but she shows to us the reasonableness of the truth she has been authorized to transmit. She teaches as our Blessed Lord taught. She tries to put her spiritual children in the right relation to the Faith. She enables them through grace to see the Truth for themselves, and so embracing it through their own reason and will, it becomes their own possession and a joy to their hearts.
Another characteristic of the Anglican Church is that its authoritative teaching does not conflict with the discoveries of modern science. The Calvinistic and Puritan and Protestant systems of theology had so taught the mechanical inspiration of Holy Scripture, as to lay portions of it open to attack from a scientific view-point. A wave of infidelity passed over the country in the last century, aided by the eloquence of Colonel Ingersoll. The theological systems of the Protestant sects crumbled under the attack. Our Church does not place herself in opposition to science. The revelation that God makes to' us through the natural and material world is one with the moral revelation He makes to the Church through the Bible. We cannot here, in our limited space, mention the many misunderstandings of Holy Scripture which an ultra-Protestantism put upon it, but for instance the Bible does not say that the sun and moon stood still at the prayer of Joshua. It is not in the Bible, but in the book of Warsongs where the poet is indulging his Homeric fancy. The fact was that Joshua, wanting to make a night attack, desired and prayed that the daylight might be delayed. His prayer was answered by the coming up of a storm. The poet magnified this into his making the sun and moon stand still. The possibility of Jonah being swallowed by a large fish has been proved by the finding of fishes sixty feet long in the
Mediterranean, having a sack in their jaws, where a man might lie in a state of coma, and remain some days alive.
The Bible again does not state that the world was made in six days of twenty-four hours each. For the sun and moon are said to appear on the fourth day. Consequently the preceding days were not those of twenty-four hours' duration.
The world was progressively formed, and was probably millions of years in its development. The discovery of the progressive way in which the world developed, and which is called evolution, only shows the progressive method of its development under the guidance of Almighty wisdom and power. Our Church has made no error, as
has, by the condemnation of Galileo, who discovered the diurnal revolution of the World. She welcomes all scientific research in the department of material things, or in the construction of the written Word. Rome
Again, the Anglican Church preserves, as no other body, the rights of both clergy and laity. She believes that the laity are sharers in the priesthood, royalty, and prophetical power of Christ.
The laity have thus a choice for their vestries and officers in the selection of their pastors. The laity and clergy assemble yearly together in Diocesan Council, and pass their own canons, regulating the government and discipline of the Diocese. The clergy and laity can vote separately, and thus have a veto power on each other. The Bishop is not appointed, as in the Romish Church, by a foreign ecclesiastic, but elected by the clergy and laity of their own Diocese. The Bishop cannot govern autocratically, but must govern along with the Council of Advice elected by the clergy and laity. If we examine the government, we see the Church is not thus under an absolute ecclesiastical papal monarch, but has her own free government, in which the rights of the clergy and laity and bishops are preserved. She combines in herself the advantages of the Congregational, Presbyterian, and Episcopal systems, and the latter, thus modified, has come down to us from Apostolic times.
The Church, in the administration of her discipline, seeks to train souls in sanctity by the exercise of their own consciences. She does not treat them as children in a school, giving them laws, which they must under ecclesiastical compulsion obey. She instructs her children in great moral principles, leaving it to them to apply them in their own individual lives. In other words, she trusts them. She does not say, "You must not go to the theater, or play cards, or dance, or go to social entertainments." She leaves these matters to their individual consciences. "Whatever," she teaches, "is found to come in between the soul and God, and hinder union between the. two is to be avoided," but each person is to be judge for himself, and refrain from judging others. Thus the conscience and the will are individually trained, as being, not under the law, but under grace. In like manner, the Church does not put her ban upon secret societies. She trusts her children, and leaves them to act on their own responsibility. She does not condemn, i.e., the Free Masons, or like Associations, nor does she interfere in any way with her members' politics. She believes that the Church and State should be kept apart, and a free American citizen should not be dictated to by any religious body how to vote. If this were the case, the whole country might come under the influence, silently exerted, of a foreign power.
The Church believes also in a free system of education, and would have men and women so trained intellectually as to be able to investigate all matters, including religion, for themselves. She believes that the welfare of republican institutions depends upon a free and educated citizenship.
Again: our Church offers her Eucharistic worship in the common tongue. This was the scriptural and ancient method. It might be well enough in
Western Europeat the time when Latin was a common language, to have it in Latin, but unquestionably it is better now to have it in a language which people can understand and follow, and thus make their worship a united one.
We have then the Mass, as it is commonly called, in English. The people do not say their own private prayers, but unite with the Priest in a common offering to Almighty God. Our Church acts thus like a wise mother. True to her ancient heritage, she preserves the ancient practice of the first thousand years, and gives the Blessed Sacrament to the laity in both kinds.
The argument in opposition to this practice is that it exposes the Blessed Sacrament to irreverence, but our answer is that we may safely trust our Lord's own direction, "Drink ye all of it."
The sittings in our church are free to all, rich and poor alike. The Church makes no distinction before her Altars. She lays no tax on her people for the receiving of any of the Sacraments. She demands no Peter's Pence to support the Pope in the dignity and state of a temporal king, and seeing that the Italian Government offers to him $650,000 a year, if he will take it, there seems no necessity for it.
Our Church, believing that Matrimony is a holy estate, and a means of grace, does not deprive the clergy of it. It is the high moral standard, as well as scholarship that is to be found among our clergy that has given confidence to the laity, along with loyalty to their priests.
Again; it is in no spirit of boasting that we may point to the practical working of the Church's system.
The Church has ever been on the side of human rights and projects for the uplift of humanity. It may be remembered that the great English Magna Charta, which stands as the basis of our civil and religious liberties, was signed by English churchmen, with Archbishop Stephen Langton their leader. King John in his wickedness had acknowledged that he held
from the Pope, and the Pope upheld him, and condemned our Archbishop. Our American Declaration of Independence was signed largely by churchmen, with George Washington at their head. To-day during the strife between labor and capital, our English Bishops have frequently been called to act as arbitrators. In the struggle between capital and labor, the England has a society, of which I am one of the Vice-Presidents, for the protection of labor's rights. Capital, we all admit, has its rights as well as duties, but the rule which should govern the relation between capital and labor is the Golden Rule. Our Church tries to impress on all their duties to a common Father, and their unity in the Brotherhood of Man. American Church
Lastly the Church trains souls in sanctity, and points them to the way of perfection. With a Mother's tender care, she takes the little ones up in her arms, even as Christ did, and blesses them with Holy Baptism. Just at the time when temptations begin to invade the youthful soul, she comes with the gift of the Holy Ghost in Confirmation. She does not leave the young to wander as they will without her care, hoping that in some way they may be converted, but she trains them up as baptized children of the Lord. She comes to the adults who have learned to feel their weakness or failure or sins with the absolving grace of the Precious Blood. She comforts and transforms souls growing in grace with the Blessed Body and Blood given in the Holy Eucharist. She bestows her blessing on the holy married estate, and when souls are departing, comforts them with the Viaticum, and Holy Unction. She brings thus not merely truth, but help and power and grace to her children, and, to those who are so called, points to a higher state of perfection as found in the Religious Life.
In her worship, she has preserved the ancient scriptural ceremonial. She adorns her Altars with lights, symbolizing Christ as the Light of the World, uses incense as the symbol of prayer, and the application of Christ's merits to individual souls, clothes her priests in vestments which mark the Church's continuity from Apostolic times, and doing all things decently and in order, offers all in a dignified and devotional service.
Her ritual is not, as is often mistakenly supposed, taken from the Roman Church. We do not in any way seek to imitate her. All that we have and use is our legitimate heritage. All these things belong to us as part of the Holy Catholic Church. We use them for the glory of God, and because they are our own.
These are some of the characteristics which endear the Anglican Church to her members. The more they know her, the more they love her, and that love, generated by Divine Grace, goes out to all who call themselves Christians. She rejoices in the zeal and devotion found in Roman Catholics, and with them, loves and practices all that is Catholic. She believes all the baptized to be members of the
, and loving them in Christ, prays for their full enlightenment. She labors for peace, and prays, and waits the full accomplishment of our Lord's prayer, that all Christians, "may be one." Churchof Christ