REVEREND FATHERS IN CHRIST, AND DEAR BRETHREN OF THE LAITY:
GRACE, mercy, and peace be to you. We bid you welcome in the name of the Lord. Coming together in the unity of the faith and Apostolic fellowship, we invoke God's blessing on your deliberations. The fourfold purpose of our yearly assembling is, to learn from the Bishop and officers of the Diocese its condition and progress; to receive the reports of the Clergy respecting their cures; to take counsel and devise means for the Church's extension; and to offer the Holy Sacrifice in its behalf.
The Canons of the Church also state that "it is deemed proper that every Bishop of this Church shall deliver, at least once in three years, a charge to the Clergy of his Diocese, unless prevented by reasonable cause."
During the past years of our Episcopate we have confined ourselves exclusively in our annual addresses, to the work and needs of our Diocese. There is nothing which so makes Churchmen forget the minor differences of allowed opinion and welds them together as zeal for the common cause. It has been our endeavor to draw you all together in the unity of Christian character and Christian work, and we cannot be too thankful for the unity and concord that exist among us.
But we have felt that in obedience to the Church's rule it would be proper to address you by way of a Charge, on two topics to-day, of wider interest. During the past three years a Commission has been deliberating upon the Revision of the Constitution and Canons of the Church. During the past year there was put forth a Pastoral Letter to the Church by the House of Bishops on matters of the highest importance to its spiritual welfare. The two topics treated of were the plenary Inspiration of Holy Scripture as the Word of God; and the reality of these Gospel Facts: the Virgin birth of our Lord, and the resurrection of His incorrupt Body from the tomb.
That there was need of such a declaration was testified to by the disquietude and pain felt by many, at the discovered development in the Church of a school of Theology, which was minimizing the Inspiration of Holy Scripture and holding the foundation Gospel Facts to be unessential to Christianity.
Now our Church, while holding the ancient traditional faith of Christendom, has always allowed of certain pious opinions within the recognized limits of its received dogmas. We have all been familiar with two schools of thought, which represent two distinct human tendencies, the Low Church Evangelical school, which is more subjective, and the High Church Sacramentarian school, which is more objective in its theology. To each the term "Catholic" may be applied. They are in accord in essentials. They have been growing into a better understanding of each other. They have a common agreement in the belief in the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God. They alike recognize the authority of the Church and the Prayer Book. They are one in sincerely holding the faith expressed in the ancient Creeds. Neither yields to the other in belief in the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement of Christ, the vicarious and substitutive sacrifice on Calvary, the need of conversion wrought by the converting and convicting power of the Holy Spirit, the necessity of a living faith without which all ordinances and Sacraments are of none effect, and of our inability by any works of our own to attain salvation which comes to us of God's mercy through the infinite merits of Christ.
But there has risen of late a new kind of Churchmanship, commonly called the Broad. Now when this is understood as the expression of that liberality which makes High and Low Churchmen as well, regard every baptized person as a member of the Christian family, it is to be commended. When it presented itself as an effort to show the agreement between the Church's faith and the ascertained facts of modern scientific discovery, its loyalty was unquestioned. When its popular preachers took up social questions and human interests and progress and kindled afresh an enthusiasm for humanity, what were they doing but carrying out the second great law of Christ, to love one's neighbor as one's self.
But members of the various schools of thought are sure, by the inevitable tendency of logic or imagination or self-will, if they do not carefully observe the proportion of the faiths and control their speculations by the faith certified by universal consent, to glide out of the Church's denned and buoy-marked channel. So we have seen high Anglicans becoming Romans, low Churchmen becoming Reformed Episcopalians, and Broad Churchmen becoming Episcopalian Unitarians.
We can however but recognize the fact, that now there is a large body of ingenious writers and popular preachers in our American Church who have broken with the ancient authoritatively accredited faith held alike by High and Low Churchmen, and are substituting for it a philosophy which changes our whole conception of God and Christ and the way of salvation.
It is being actively propagated in some theological seminaries, is supported by a large amount of the wealth of the East, is dominant in a number of Dioceses and rules their Councils, and has extended itself so silently and swiftly as to have been little observed by the South and West. It was to allay no ungrounded fears, but to rouse the Church, seemingly dormant, to grave perils which threatened its life, that the declaration of the Bishops was issued.
In the spirit of fairness and with a desire to know the truth, let us now examine this.
Instead of treating Christian Theology as the logical exponent of the Gospel Facts, its history is traced, like the history of every philosophical theory, independent of these Facts. All religion (for no distinction is allowed between natural and revealed) is supposed to be a product of human thought, and to develop like other products of thought from the consciousness of men and through the clash of minds discarding the false and retaining the true. The more enlightened the minds, the purer the thought, and thus the most brilliant men of the age become the beacon lights for the rest to follow.
The Gospel Facts being thus removed from their proper place, and the logical explanation of these Facts as set forth by the (Ecumenical Councils being rejected, the way is prepared for a Theology, which, instead of being the exponent of the Gospel Facts, has this new and startling peculiarity, that it is not dependent for its truth upon the Facts of our Lord's miraculous birth, His sacrificial expiation for sin, or the resurrection of His uncorrupt Body.
For the sake of emphasis we repeat this point as destructive of the whole system. For it will be seen as soon as the principles of the Broad Church Theology are understood, that the supernatural Birth, the atoning Sacrifice and bodily Resurrection of the Historic Christ have no necessary place in that system of thought.
The three principles upon which Modern Broad Church Theology rests, are as follows:
1. The conception of God Immanent in Nature.
2. The conception of the Image of God in man.
3. The conception of the (so-called) Historical Christ.
The first is only important to the second, the second as the step to the third, the third is the principle which departs most from the traditional theology of the Church and is in direct opposition to the Gospel Facts.
Consider the first of these. In order to understand this conception of God Immanent in Nature, it must be compared with that conception of God's Immanence which the Catholic Church has ever held and which is true. We may give the latter in the words of Dr. Pusey:
God is Omnipresent, that is everywhere. Our earthly substances do not shut out God. God's way of being is wholly different from ours. It is not with God as when we build a house and part off what is without the house from what is within, and that so God should be shut out by the works of His own hands. He is above them; without them; within them; not a part of them, not intermingled with them, not confused with them; nor are they part of Him; yet they hinder not His presence. He is not in one way within them; and in another way without them; but one and the same God wholly everywhere. He does not fill one with one part of Himself and another with another part; but is one and the same in all."
Now compare with this the conception of God's Immanence in nature as stated by Broad Church teachers.
It usually begins by regarding the act of creation as a necessity of God's own life. The completeness and beatitude which the Blessed Trinity has in Himself is thus denied by the requisition of a creation which relieves His otherwise solitariness. This creation, as a necessitated act, involves an emanation of His own Nature and logically, if a necessary act, is Eternal. The outcome is Pantheism. No Universe without a God and no God without a Universe.
In respect of His Immanence it is not held that, His essential nature being what it is, earthly substances do not shut Him out, and He is as wholly without as He is within, but it is held that He dwells in the Universe "as His abode," manifesting Himself in nature and humanity. Wherever, we may ask, does this greatly differ from the old heathen thought? "In the Stoic Philosophy God was conceived of as indwelling in the world penetrating everywhere and filling it with His presence. The world was thought to sustain the same relation to God as the body to the spirit; it was directed and controlled by an immanent life, of whose beauty and glory outward nature is the direct manifestation, while the human spirit in its moral capacity and attainments expressed the highest revelations of the actual presence of the divine."
He dwells, the Broad Church teachers tell us, in the Universe as His abode and manifests Himself in nature, in humanity, and finally and supremely in our Lord. He is a "Deity," one of their writers declares, "dwelling in outward nature, but more especially in humanity, and above all in Christ." And this Deity is also spoken of as being "organically related" to man. If organically related, what is this then but Pantheism?
And this Deity is not the one God in three Persons who alone is God and whom we Christians worship. It is a phantom. It is a philosophical Idol. It is partly the reproduction of Greek thought. It is as unlike the true God as the carved images of the heathen. It is as idolatrous as an object of worship. "God," they declare, "as truly as man, has a moral history, a development, an evolution of inner life." This is the philosophical Idol of their own making and they defend Its existence by a philosophy which is superficial and a theology which is not Christian.
Their explanation of the Trinity is a travesty of the Christian Creed. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are not regarded as equally Immanent. This is what they teach.
The Deity indwelling all nature, the soul or activity, of which the world is the body, is held by them to be the Word, the Divine Reason, the Eternal Son. In contrast with this "Immanent Deity," "Transcendent Deity" is described as "the Eternal Father, the mysterious background or abyss of all existence, united by a holy and infinite spirit with Immanent Deity."
Not only is the Blessed Trinity thus insulted by their foolishness, but a vital truth of the Incarnation is denied. We Christians know that in the fulness of time the Word became flesh. At the Annunciation the new creation began. Then humanity was united to 'Deity. In union with that Humanity we are united to God. It is in a new and higher way. Before the Incarnation it was by natural gifts, now it is by indwelling grace. But this Christian truth is contradicted by the Broad Church teaching of God's Immanence that makes "Christ the Indwelling God." "His Incarnation," so it declares, "is not a thing new or strange. He was in the world" (as the Immanent Deity) "before He became flesh and was preparing the world for His visible advent. As Indwelling Deity He was to a certain extent already universally incarnate as the light which lighteneth every man." There is thus no recognition of the two distinct relations in which we stand to God, that of the creature to the Creator and that of the Christian to Christ.
Secondly, consider the next principle of this system: Its conception of the "Image of God in Man."
In considering man's nature we are met with the fact that unlike all other known beings his actions are not regularly in accord with his best judgment. He knows the better and pursues the worst. The fall of man is not so much a doctrine as it is a scientific fact. And this fact Holy Scripture explains by telling us how man was created and established in God's image and likeness. These were His gifts. God created man after His own image, enduing His nature with natural gifts. He communicated to human nature the Divine quality of indestructibility. He imparted to it, under restricting conditions, qualities of power, knowledge, goodness. He established man in His likeness. He did this by an added gift of grace, that established man's nature in harmony with itself, in correspondence with God's mind and will, and enabled it to attain to a further union with the Divine Life in the Beatific vision of God. This grace man lost by sin. But the natural gifts were not lost, though marred by ignorance and unregulated desire. Struggling as best he may, man knows his nature to be wounded and faulty, and that he needs, by aid without himself, to be reconciled and made whole.
But the Broad Church system makes man's nature related to the Deity indwelling in creation, not by an act of creation, but by being begotten of God. "My essential humanity," says Dr. Parks, "of which Jesus partook, is begotten of the Father." "The Indwelling Deity is said to be continually or organically related to the human soul." "It is a moral or spiritual image, containing as it were in the germ the highest and the divinest qualities as they exist in God. It is that in the Son which comes from being begotten of the Father." This makes man not to be created in the image of God, but, being begotten, to be consubstantial with Him. If this were so, then, as the Bishop of Springfield has observed, men ought to share God's Attributes.
If logically any shrink from this conclusion, yet such a conception does away with the whole redemptive work of Christ, as the Church has received it. "In the redemptive work of Christ," writes Professor Allen, "there is no readjustment or restoration of a broken relationship between God and humanity, but rather the revelation of a relationship which had always existed, indestructible in its nature, obscured but not obliterated by human ignorance and sin." "In the life and especially the death of Christ lies the evidence of God's identification with man. The Incarnation is itself the Atonement by which God reconciles the world unto himself."
The reason given for this is, because the manifestation of God in Christ was a manifestation of man's true nature of God in man. It was a picture lesson revealing to us our essential union with the Immanent Deity. A union now revealed but always existing before as well as after the coming of the Historic Christ. To realize this organic union constitutes redemption. "It is the soul itself which of itself and by itself disengages itself from that which stains it, and is thus rendered worthy of entering into communion with Him Who is purity. It is not through grace coming from without, but by a voluntary purification within that man can see God."
This is the doctrine which is being taught in our theological schools, which is being backed up by rich corporations and wealthy Churches, and is now dominant in a number of Eastern Dioceses.
The sinner who feels the burden of his sin, is no longer to be pointed to Christ as the Lamb of God by whose substitutive and vicarious sacrifice his guilt may be done away and he find acceptance. For him there is no Sacrament of Baptism for the washing away of sin, no comforting word of absolution applying the reconciliation virtues of the precious Blood. The poor sin-stricken soul must not look to the sacrifice of Calvary or to the pardoning grace that flows from it, for the pardoning grace comes not from without, but in his weakness and sin-oppressed condition he must look into the putrid morass of his own soul to find deliverance. As the Priest stands by the death-bed of some poor penitent he must not tell him of salvation through Christ's all-satisfying atonement and the appointed means of pardon. He must either stay away and say "all is well" and there is no eternal loss of soul, or visit the sick and preach philosophy. Must tell the dying soul how that the Deity, dwelling within the world as His abode, is the only begotten Son of God, and that He is organically related to the human soul, and bid the sinner realize this as his safety and hope.
Let us now pass to the third conception, which relates to the Historic Christ.
The God of this Broad Church Theology, as we have seen, is not that of the Catholic Creeds. God transcendent is represented as the Father. The Indwelling Deity is identified with the Deity in Christ. Christ is made the manifestation of this indwelling Deity. But now especially notice how this theological system culminates. It has two Christs.
The indwelling Deity is called "the spiritual and essential Christ who is limited by no conditions of time or space," or "the living personal Christ organically related to the soul in all times and places, in all conditions and circumstances." Then there is the other Christ whom they call the "Historical Christ," who is merely the manifestation of the Indwelling Deity or Essential Christ. The Historical Christ is supposed to have been ignorant of His Godhead and only gradually to have attained the knowledge of it.
Here you perceive, dear brethren, the old Nestorian error of a double personality in Christ. But the Christian faith is that the two Natures, God and man, were united in one Person: the Person of the Eternal Word. We know therefore, as there was only one "Ego" in Him, He must always have known Himself to be what He was, the Eternal Son of God. Yet a Broad Church teacher writes, "No words of Scripture appear to imply that Jesus, when He lay in Mary's arms, or worked in Joseph's shop, knew with clear celestial knowledge that He was God's true and only begotten Son." "It certainly appears to have come to him." So they deny, and sometimes with scorn, the ancient faith of the hypostatic union of the two natures in the one self-conscious Personality of the Eternal Word. Probably through ignorance of the Church's theology or unwillingness to accept it, they cannot understand how then He could have been really tempted and be now a helpful and true example to us. Thus they come in their denial of Christianity to look upon Christ as a human being indwelt in a degree peculiar to Himself by the Immanent Deity.
They claim that the Catholic Church with its "traditional theology is in error because in its efforts to know Christ after the flesh, it has lost the vision of what they call the spiritual essential Christ, and has sacrificed this conception of the higher spiritual Christ in order to emphasize and make its own the historical fact of Incarnation." How this sounds like an echo of German theologians; like the efforts of men living in an imperfect union with the spiritual organism of the Church and so necessarily deficient of spiritual insight and capacity to grasp and hold the Catholic faith. Yet the work and mission of this school is thus boastingly heralded. "It is no longer the Christ after the Flesh" (i.e. the Historical and Real Christ), but the Christ "after the Spirit Who occupies the central throne in Christian thought and experience."
In other words, belief in the Historical Christ, as existing to-day in His Blessed, Crucified, Risen, and Glorified Body is far inferior to belief in the Indwelling Deity or the spiritually Essential Christ, the philosophical Idol of this school of Theology.
It is therefore, you see, natural, when you grasp the principles of this system, for it to reject all authority, in Holy Scripture or in Creeds. For it is not based on authority, but on progressive human thought. You see also that it is a system which does not base itself on the Gospel Facts, nor does it require them. It is a philosophical attempt to remain Christian without accepting them. You see also that it is immaterial to this system whether Christ after the flesh was born naturally or super-naturally. With lofty superiority of wisdom, some of them say they "believe the supernatural birth but don't regard it as essential." It matters not to this school of thought, whether Christ's death was a propitiatory sacrifice for sin, or whether it was a revelation of Divine power and glorious martyrdom for Truth. As to the Gospel Fact of the Resurrection of the Body laid in the tomb of Joseph, they teach it should be considered in a mystical sense, "a re-clothing in some higher form of the purified spirit." The Ascension of Christ in the identical flesh, in which He won His victory, need not, they claim, be held, but rather we may adopt as a pious opinion, that He unclothed Himself of that Body and "ex-carnated His Incarnation."
So it all comes to this, that it is unessential whether Christ was born of a Virgin, or His uncorrupted Body rose, or He with that Body ascended. There is not a High Priest touched with the feeling of our infirmities, now presenting Himself in His pierced Body on our behalf and making our petitions, through union with His merits, His own. His humanity is not the channel of life and grace to our bodies and souls. There is no spiritual organism which is His Body the Church here on earth, no need, of course, of a Priesthood, and no Sacraments which extend to faith, His grace.
You may understand, dear brethren, by this analysis what this modern, shallow, irrational system is; how destructive it is to the Christian faith; and how it is to be met. It is in direct opposition to the great Gospel facts and to Catholic theology, which is the interpretation of them. We need not dwell on those facts. The great fact of the Resurrection of the identical Body which was laid in the grave proves beyond question that the Christ super-naturally born of the ever Blessed Virgin is intended to occupy the central throne in Christian thought and experience, and that the Deity of Jesus Christ differs from that of Divinity in man, in kind as well as degree. This broad theology does not require these Gospel facts. By insisting on them as the Bishops' Pastoral does, as essential, it will be met and overthrown. But that our laity be no longer exposed to teachers trained in private irresponsible theological schools, it behooves the Church to place by Canon every theological school under supervision, and allow no candidate for Orders to be educated in any which has not the approval of three-fourths of the Bishops of a province. Unless we purify the fountain there is death in the stream.
Let us turn now to our second topic.
The chief interest in the coming General Convention of the Church, which meets in Minneapolis in October, centers in the proposed Revision of the Constitution and Canons. After many years of patient examination and learned debate, a commission composed of seven Bishops, seven Priests, Doctors of Divinity, and seven laymen, was appointed in 1892, which has published the result of its three years' deliberation in the form of a report. So far as we have learned, it has been favorably received.
The Constitution is prefaced by a Declaration, which asserts that "This Church as an integral portion of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, holds the Faith maintained by the undivided Church, defined in the Creeds commonly called the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, and divinely set forth in Holy Writ; receives the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the Word of God, and as containing all things necessary to salvation; continues steadfast in the Apostolic ministry of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons." The Declaration also states that this Church "ministers the two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself, with unfailing use of Christ's Words of institution and of the elements ordained by Him."
To the latter sentence there are two serious objections, one to the language employed and the other to its doctrinal import. The language is taken from what is popularly known as the "Chicago Quadrilateral," and, while fitting in addressing an Eirenicon to sectarians, is out of place in a Declaration of the Faith. Again, it is an alteration of and narrowing of the Reformation settlement. The statement implies that there were but two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself. Now the Reformers declined to commit themselves in the Prayer Book to this limited number of the Sacraments. Wisely, and in characteristically guarded language they say, there were two Sacraments ordained by Christ, which were generally necessary to salvation. Two only as necessary to salvation where they may be had. But these were not the only means of grace Christ revealed and left for the life of His Church. The Apostles indeed took order and promulgated the ministration of Confirmation, the giving of Holy Orders, the ministry of the word of reconciliation, and the Unction of the sick, all of which convey their respective graces to faithful recipients; but the author of them must have been Christ Himself, for it would have been impossible for the Apostles to have instituted any effectual sign of grace.
It were better then that the Declaration should briefly state this Church "ministers the divinely ordained Sacraments in use throughout the Catholic Church," or, omit the Declaration altogether. The latter is the more conservative and safer course. For the faith of the Church is embodied in the word of God and in the Prayer Book, in its Liturgy, its Creeds, Catechism, Ordinal, and Articles, and it is dangerous to allow an implication to arise, by the insertion of this Declaration, that our Church allows of any other standard or anything less explicit or complete.
There will probably be little disagreement with the proposed change in reducing the number of Deputies from each Diocese to three Presbyters and three laymen. It is a change which will diminish the growing unwieldiness of the House, increase its judicial efficiency, and prevent a divided Diocesan vote when the voting is by Dioceses.
It will also probably be regarded as wise to change the present rule which makes the senior Bishop the presiding Bishop, and to allow the House of Bishops to elect its own head.
Another improvement is found in the needed relief given to the House of Bishops in obtaining a quorum, by requiring not a majority of all the Bishops, but only a majority exclusive of the Missionary Bishops. Few persons realize the present existing difficulty of obtaining a quorum even under circumstances which render a meeting of the Bishops most desirable, on account of the many engagements of the Bishops, the great extent of country and the large expense which they have personally to bear. It costs several thousands of dollars to bring them together in New York for a single day's needed deliberation, or for an election required to fill a vacant Missionary Episcopate. It would, therefore, be a great relief if the number required for a quorum were lessened. The obvious objection to this is the possibility of legislation by a small number of Bishops. But this is obviated by the Rule, that whatever may be the number required for a quorum, yet that no election shall be valid, or legislation be adopted, save by a majority of all the Bishops entitled to vote, whether present or absent.
The report further proposes that the name of the General Convention be changed to the more ecclesiastical one of General Synod; and it gives the old Scotch title of Primus to the Presiding Bishop, and Primate to that of the chief Bishop of the Province. It is not a material matter, but may occasion some debate.
The giving of titles is a national characteristic. All men like titles, and Americans especially so. They are at times amusingly ingenious in their invention of them. Perhaps it is a weakness of our countrymen. It shows itself sometimes in Church matters unpleasantly combined with an un-Apostolic cowardice and fear of criticism. We must invent new titles like "General Convention," "Standing Committee," and "Presiding Bishop," names never heard of in the Church of God before. Would it not be better to be content with the old-fashioned Church terms of "Synod" or "Council," rather than the more pretentious and political sounding one of "Convention" and to be satisfied with calling our prelates by the old titles of Bishop and Archbishop, as our Reformers, Archbishops Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley, left them to us, and as is the custom throughout all parts of the Anglican Church, except in our own Nationality and one other at this day, and as has been recommended to us by the Pan-Anglican Conference?
We venture also to think that the proposal in the report "that if either House shall desire the two Houses to sit together," "a joint session shall be held," is an unwise one, tending to impair the independence of the House of Deputies and impairing the dignity of the House of Bishops; and that a mutual understanding between two legislative bodies when they differ is better reached in the regular and well-tried way of a committee of conference than by a joint debate.
On the formation of new Dioceses, the report wisely recommends that the number of self-supporting congregations and the number of canonically resident Presbyters required be increased from six to ten and that the General Synod must have satisfactory assurance of a suitable provision for the support of the Episcopate.
For the better safeguarding of the Faith the report requires that Priests and Bishops, and not only Deacons, as now, should subscribe to the Declaration "that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the Word of God," and promise conformity to "the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church." It is well to observe the change here made, from the plural to the singular, from "doctrines" to "doctrine." For there are Broad Churchmen who say they can believe in the "doctrine" of the Church, but not in its "doctrines." They mean they can accept a certain general "doctrine" which they have distilled from the Prayer Book, while feeling themselves at liberty to reject a number of specific doctrines. Is it well to sanction this view by a change in our present formula of subscription?
It is certainly proper in view of present dangers that at each grade of the ministry the ordained should make a renewed profession of faith and loyalty. We can, however, but think that since the Bishops declare themselves in their late Pastoral to be "special guardians of the faith," a more full and special declaration of faith should be required of them. There are practical reasons why this should be so. There are obstacles in the ascertainment of the soundness in the faith of Bishops-elect arising from the great size of the country and also from the electioneering methods of some secular newspapers, that make it difficult for Standing Committees to act intelligently in confirming an election. Some Standing Committees escape the difficulty by taking the ground that they are simply judges of the regularity of the election and have no right to go behind the conventionally signed Diocesan testimonials; while others having a different view of their duty are often unable to act but upon conflicting hearsay reports or second-hand testimony. If the orthodoxy of our rapidly increasing Episcopate is to be guarded,--and is there anything more important?--a fuller statement of the faith should be required of Bishops than of Deacons and Presbyters. And can any test be more acceptable to an honest believer in the Blessed Trinity and the Incarnation than the declaration made by the Pan-Anglican Conference, together with the definition on their essential doctrines found in the Athanasian Creed? Would it not be wise therefore to require every Bishop-elect before his consecration to sign such a declaration and send it to the Presiding Bishop? To meet existing difficulties by relieving Standing Committees of all responsibility, by not requiring their consent, as is proposed, is only to increase our dangers.
Let us turn to another and most important subject. The chief interest in the proposed changes in the Constitution centers about the adoption of the Provincial system. It involves the grouping of a certain number of Dioceses together as a Province, and the regulation and adjustment of the powers and functions of the Provincial Synod to those of the General Convention and the Diocesan.
The Church appears to be ready for some such legislation. The logic of facts and of Church growth has been found stronger than the logic of obstructive argument and fears, and the wisdom of a Provincial system, adapted to the needs of the American Church, is now commonly recognized.
Years ago ecclesiastical statesmen saw that the rapidly increasing number of Dioceses was enlarging the House of Deputies to unwise proportions; that it was becoming difficult for Standing Committees to pass satisfactorily on the fitness of Bishops-elect; that the Church was being viciously exposed to the influences of politically manufactured newspaper agitation; that there was a widespread feeling among the clergy of the injustice of exposing them to the liability of censure from our imperfectly constructed Diocesan courts without opportunity of review or appeal; that there was danger of our missionary system with its seventeen Bishops and yearly disbursement of half a million dollars passing, through the almost necessary centralization of its government, into the hands of a few; and from these and other reasons, the advantages of the Provincial System became more apparent.
We think that by the erection of Provinces, the Church's growth, its missionary enterprise, educational resources, and judicial system would be vigorously developed. We think the General Convention might be relieved, by the Provincial Synod, of some of its increasing work and that it might not be obliged to meet but once in four or five years. We think that each Provincial Synod should have power to frame a code, common to the several Dioceses of which the Province is composed, for the trial of offenses, thus securing impartial treatment for all cases in the first instance and also providing, in the Bishops of the Province, a court of appeal. This should be supplemented by allowing of a further one in case of doctrine, to the House of Bishops. We think that the Provincial Synod would also greatly relieve the Diocesan ones of their machinery-making and petty legislation, and enable the Diocesan gathering to take on a more practical character in Conferences about parochial work, and planning missionary enterprises, and in spiritual improvement. We think that Bishops-elect should be confirmed by the Bishops and Standing Committees of the Province only, as better able to obtain reliable information and more likely to act, from the small-ness of their number, with an increased sense of their responsibility. We think that for the securing of these benefits there should be but few Provinces, not more than five or six, and that a Province ought not to be formed on state lines, or conformed to sectional ones, and should consist of at least twelve Dioceses, for dignity, usefulness, and safety. We think it would be far better that the Dioceses should be grouped together, not by their own choice or predilections, but by the wisdom and action of the whole Church expressed in General Convention. We think there should be a Church Mission House in every Province, which should be in subordinate connection with that in New York; and which should aid in collecting and distributing the Church missionary funds. We think, in fine, if the Provincial system is to be introduced, that to be useful, it should be a real and not a sham one, that it should not be a cribbed and coffined creation of the Dioceses, with meagerly given and jealously watched powers, a weak, untrusted, and useless appendage, but so endowed by General Convention with legislative powers, subordinate of course to the General Synod, as to make it effective.
Against the introduction of this system of Provinces with Primate or Archbishop, and Provincial Synods, it is likely an old objection, appealing to our inherited anti-Roman prejudices, will be revived. Will it not tend to a Papacy? Does it not logically do so? First it will be said you have the Diocese and its Bishop, then a Province and its Archbishop or Metropolitan, and then must it not come to a Pope?
It is therefore necessary to remind ourselves how the Papal supremacy was developed. Many causes contributed to its development from a primacy to a Supremacy, but one effectual agency was the invasion by the Pope of the powers of the Diocesan Bishop and the independent rights of the Metropolitan. If the exaggerated power of the Papacy is ever reduced to its original, primitive, and constitutional limits, it will be by the Episcopate becoming recognized in the Roman Communion as a separate order of the ministry, and by their Bishops recovering their full and independent prerogatives. The establishment of the ancient and churchly Provincial system among ourselves will, so far from leading us to accept the Papal supremacy, be more likely to lead the devout and learned Roman Catholic theologians in America away from it to the ancient ecclesiastically assigned, and canon controlled primacy.
Thus the more the provincial system is studied, the more it will commend itself as resolving many of the difficulties arising from our growth, by its obvious utility, and as a preservative of our Catholic position and inherited faith.
But while all or nearly all will admit the wisdom of adopting some system, great diversity will arise upon these questions: how the Provinces shall be formed, what shall be the powers of the Provincial Synod, and what its relation to the Diocesan one. And naturally it will be the object of those who have been forced to yield to the logic of the facts which demands the system, yet who have not as yet faith enough in the wisdom of the Church to trust it, to minimize as far as possible the powers of the Province and so make it ineffective.
Now in the discussions which during the next nine years will be held on this whole subject, before the Church with her patient and enlightened wisdom formulates her decision, there will be two oft-repeated contentions made in debate which have for their satisfactory resolution two distinctive Church principles.
In considering the Church's Constitution and the principles which should govern our future legislation, all can see the superficial likeness existing between certain Church questions and those which, in past times, divided Americans on constitutional ones into Federalists and Democrats. In the Church there have been those who look upon the Diocese as possessed of independent Church life and forming the Church unit, and the National Church as being its creation and having no other powers in its General Convention save those explicitly delegated to it. On the other hand, there are those who claim that through whatever providential process of development our National Church arose, as an integral portion of the One Holy Catholic Church, it is possessed in its collective capacity and in its General Convention with all the inherent ancient powers of a National Synod.
These two views will have much to do with our legislation and the formation of Provinces. Some will maintain that as the Diocese is the unit, the Province should be the creation of the Diocese, and no Diocese should be forced to join any Province save with its own consent. So also in regard to provincial legislation. The Province is to possess only the powers delegated to it by the Dioceses, and its legislation is not to be binding on any Diocese except by its approval.
Now such a Provincial system, we need not say, would not add anything to the efficiency of the Church, but only to the making of a large amount of useless machinery. But what we wish to point out and emphasize, is that the likeness between our civil government and of the Church is but a superficial one; and that whatever views we as citizens may have in regard to the relations of state and the general government, they have no place in these Church questions. The very strongest upholders of state sovereignty are often found as Churchmen, the strongest upholders of the inherent powers of the National Convention. For they recognize two great distinctions which exist between Church and State. The State in our country is the creation of the majority of the people, expressing its will and mind through its representatives. The Church is a spiritual organism through which is revealed the mind and will of Almighty God. It is not like the tower of Babel built up upon an earthly foundation of earthly power and the wisdom of the majority, but the city of the New Jerusalem descending already organized from heaven. Our National government may be a government with delegated powers formed by the union of independent sovereign states, but in the Church of God the Dioceses are not separate independent sovereignties. They have no independent life or powers apart from the one body of the whole Church.
Thus in respect of the fancied parallel between the Church and our Republic and the theory that the Diocese is the unit of construction as the state is of the United States, the answer is, that the Church is not a man-made Republic or a Babel-made tower, but a spiritual organism and Solidarity. It is a Kingdom of which Christ is the Head and King.
It will, we trust, not be over tiresome to you, if here, in support of what has been said, we look at the matter historically and recall the growth and development of our Church organization in our land. Go back to the time when at the end of the last century, Churchmen in the separated colonies found themselves forced by the Revolution to take measures for the preservation of the Church's life. Though in their civil relations they were members of distinct organizations, as Churchmen they were members of the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church. They were united to the Body of Christ by an Apostolic ministry and priesthood, by valid and efficacious sacraments, by an unmutilated Liturgy of the commemorative sacrifice, by the possession of the common faith of undivided Christendom, and by the inheritance of its body of Canon law.
Up to the time of the Revolution American Churchmen were under the Episcopal jurisdiction of the Bishop of London and so linked to the Anglican Communion and in it to the Solidarity of the whole Catholic Church. The Revolution made impossible the continuance of the relation between the Bishop of London and themselves, and so it surrendered the link which connected the American Church with the Solidarity. Only in connection with the Solidarity could Churchmen possess and teach the faith authoritatively, only in connection with it were they in possession of the Church's order and law. When the needful link of the Episcopal order was restored, they came, in union with the Solidarity, into full possession of the Church's law as well as of her Faith. Left as they had been without active Episcopal ministrations, no wonder, taking also their environment into consideration, they grasped but imperfectly the Church's teaching and the law. So when Americans desired of them the Episcopate, the English Bishops insisted that the American Church should retain the unity of the faith by restoring the Nicene Creed to their proposed book of worship. They also compelled them to retain so much of the unity of law that no Bishop should be consecrated until there were three Bishops of English consecration in the country. At length becoming actively united to the Solidarity, the Church in America (free from the hindrance of state association existing in England) has moved more freely toward the full recovery of her inherited unity of faith and worship, and, though slowly, to her inherited unity of government and law.
Note this progress. Our Church's history shows us that there are two ways in this department of government and law, wherein the growing recovery of its inherited privilege, through unity with the solidarity, is specially observable. One is the gradual recognition of the rightful position and powers of the Bishops as the links of the Apostolic unity and as special guardians of the faith. The other relates to the present subject of Provinces.
As to the first. The American Church, lovingly compelled to retain the unity of the essential faith, only imperfectly retained the unity of her constitutional law. It has taken a hundred years to attain the evolution of the House of Bishops to the rights which belong to that order, in the period of the four Ecumenical Councils. The constitutional legislation of the past hundred years is nothing more than an effort to restore to the House of Bishops its proper functions. There was at first, save in Connecticut, which proceeded independently, much ill-grounded apprehension of Bishops. South Carolina went so far as to refuse to come into the union, except on the condition that it should not be compelled to have a Bishop. Then too, at first, as you remember, the Bishops in the Convention met and sat in the same body with the Clerical and Lay Deputies. It was afterwards provided when their numbers became three, they should sit as a separate House. But though this step was taken, that House was not allowed to possess equal power with the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies. It could not originate legislation. It more than reversed the order in the English convocation. There the House of Bishops could originate and enact legislation, the lower House having only a negative. With us the House of Bishops could not originate and had no equal power of veto. But the House of Deputies could by a four-fifths vote overrule the Bishops. And this inferiority was not done away until the Constitution was amended in 1808. So that in the first twenty years the House of Bishops passed from the condition of a house of revision towards the position of an independent and coequal body. This shows how slight was the conception of Church law and organization, at the period we first considered. It shows also, how it is for us to recognize that the true law of our Church's growth is by way of recovery, through union with the solidarity, of all our inherited privileges of order, worship, and faith, which belong to us as an integral portion of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
We see this in the other matter of the Province. In Colonial times, as has been previously remarked, Churchmen in the separate Colonies were under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London. If we examine his powers, he stood practically to them in the relation of a Patriarch. For the American Churchmen did not form a single Diocese, nor were they parts of one Diocese. Here a common mistake is made. They were in separate civil jurisdictions and so were like the provinces of the Roman Empire. These provinces were administered Ecclesiastically by Patriarchs. The Bishop of London administered these separate civil colonies as a Patriarch would, by aid of men like Dr. Bray, who fulfilled the office of the Chori-Episcopi of the Ancient Church; these Chori-Episcopi being, as you know, sometimes consecrated as Bishops and sometimes not. In this respect the Bishop of London was somewhat like the Bishop of Alexandria, who seems to have united in himself the powers of Patriarch and Metropolitan.
Now when the oversight of this Patriarchate was broken up by the Revolution, the Churchmen in the several independent civil colonies gathered together in informal meetings and conventions. They acted in two ways. In Connecticut they sought for and obtained a Bishop consecrated in Scotland; New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and other colonies sent representatives to consult and take action together. There were thus two lines of proceeding. But the point we wish to make is, that in no case did they act as "Dioceses" or as "Potential Dioceses" as has been said. They were not Dioceses and had not been formed into Dioceses.
And so here we may pause to note how mistaken is the fancied analogy between the formation of the United States and our Church's general government. In their civil relations, Americans were citizens of separate colonies. These colonies were independent organizations. They had inherently sovereign rights. They created by a union a national government. As Churchmen on the other hand they were all members of one body, deprived by the Revolution of their Episcopal head, who were seeking in their separate Provinces as best they knew how, a recovery of their privileges and powers through a recovered union with the solidarity of the Church.
Moreover, in reference to the theory that Dioceses came together and so formed a Church union, and that the power undelegated to General Convention remained with themselves according to the supposed parallel case of the formation by the United States, we may remark that while the state is a unit, the Diocese is not, in the same way.
The Church is not the result of an aggregation of Diocesan units, any more than it is formed by an aggregation of Christian believers. It came into existence as a complete entity. It descended from heaven--a city fully formed. The only complete unit is the one solidarity of the Catholic Church. The day of Pentecost is the Church's natal day; and the infant Church was born as complete a body as was the infant Christ on the day of the Nativity.
Three things clearly demonstrate that the Diocese is not the unit by whose aggregation the Church is built. For if we try to consider the Diocese abstractly as a separate unit, it becomes a unit separated from the Church and so is in a state of schism. It is thus a diseased unit, and no body can be formed of diseased atoms. Again it is not a unit of Church life, for it cannot propagate itself. When its one Bishop dies no one remains to ordain or consecrate, and priesthood and order and Sacraments are soon lost. Again by itself it cannot authoritatively preach the gospel, it cannot fulfil its prophetical office, for it is only in union with the solidarity that Bishops 6r Clergy can speak with authority. The Holy Ghost dwells in the solidarity and it is only as instruments of it that they are organs of the Holy Ghost in declaring authoritatively the Word.
Leaving now this theory of the Diocesan unit, and looking at facts, we perceive that the Churchmen in the several Colonies acted, not as "Dioceses" or "Potential Dioceses" but rather as Churchmen belonging to Provinces or Potential Provinces.
Here note that this is the customary method. For the whole history of the Conciliar action of the Church from the meeting of the first Council, whose records we possess, the Council of Eliberis in 305 in Spain (after the lapse of the great persecutions) down through the period of the Ecumenical Councils, shows that no Council met in a less division of the Roman Empire than that of a Province. It is not alleged that this idea was at all clear to the men of a hundred years ago. They did not fully comprehend, as we have seen, the unity of the faith and so not that of law. They did not at first realize that it was necessary to retain the Nicene Creed for the unity of the faith, and they had as little conception of retaining, through their union with the Solidarity of the Church, the unity of Church law.
But in spiritual things it is not as in civil ones, that the words and intentions of the original actors are to govern the interpretation of the thing done; for God often uses the ignorance and mistakes even of His servants to carry out in spiritual things His mind and will. His mind and will are manifested and preserved for us in the solidarity of His Church. American Churchmen are gradually recovering it. And just as the last hundred years has been taken up in realizing and recovering the true position of the House of Bishops, so the mind of our Church has been working towards the realization of the idea of the Province. It was involved in the grouping of Churchmen by Divine Providence in the separated Colonies and so from the beginning latent in the Church. It showed itself in various ways. This Provincial idea came out in the calling the See formed in the state of New York in 1838, not the Diocese of Buffalo, but the Diocese of Western New York. And since that date the recurrence of the same nomenclature, in the formation of new Dioceses, as for instance Central New York, Central Pennsylvania, Southern Virginia, East Carolina, Northern California, is a manifestation of the same underlying idea. The Colony was the Province. True, the Colony on account of the paucity of Church population had in the beginning to take on the single Diocesan form rather than the Provincial. Nevertheless it did not, as we have seen, lose the idea of the Province. It was in the Colony. And here we must recall the fact that the Colonies of that day were not identical with the area of our present states. Many states have been carved out of the regions which the Colonies of Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut ceded to the General Government. And were they to retain the identity of the area of the Colonies, most of the present Dioceses between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi would remain as portions of the Provinces of Virginia, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
Let us then emancipate ourselves from this political conception that the Diocese is the unit of construction, or that the Province should be coterminous with the state.
As the past hundred years has seen, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the recovery of the position and powers of the House of Bishops, so it remains for the opening century, under the same guidance, to restore the true position and power of the Province. The Church doubtless will act slowly. She will feel it wiser to reject all schemes which make the Province the creation and appendage of the Diocese and not a Province in reality clothed with the ancient Provincial powers. The Church is rich with the gift of patience and of years. She can wait. And when Churchmen have been sufficiently educated, the Provincial system will come; and yours, dear brethren, who will have labored for it, will be the reward and joy in that day, though we may not see it, when its capstone shall be put on with shouting.
Most imperfectly has the account of the work done this past year been put before you. The Diocese has never manifested such improvement. Churchmen are being better instructed in the Church's doctrine and practice. We humbly think the spiritual life is deepening in many souls. You are beginning to see the result, dear brethren, of your frequent Eucharists, Missions, Retreats, and prayers.
Wherever I have journeyed in the Diocese, the thoughtful consideration and generous hospitality everywhere shown by the laity has made me feel how strong the bond of affection between the Bishop and his flock is, and how united we are in one common purpose and aim for the Diocese. I cannot imagine a Bishop surrounded by a more devoted band of Clergy or a more loyal body of laymen. It is this fellowship and unity which gives the push and onward movement to our common labors. All that I have and am is yours, and I know you are equally devoted to the Great Master's cause and the development of His Church. Let us gather fresh courage and take heart of grace and go forward. Around us are a large number of persons apart from Christ who can be won to God. There are many dissatisfied in their present ecclesiastical relations who are desiring the settled faith and worship and Sacramental grace the Church can give. As the deepest spiritual interior life, developed by the Church's system, becomes manifest, many longing for the higher stages of perfection will be drawn to her. Let the faith of our Clergy be like that of the mustard seed, a faith willing to work in hidden places, as the seed is buried out of sight of men, a faith willing to die and yield up its own ambitions as the seed dissolves in the earth, let the aims and devotions of our laity be worthy of the Master's love Who died for them, and then the mountains of difficulty shall be removed by angel hands and the mustard seed be succeeded by the miracle of the sycamine tree growing in its fruitful beauty in the sea. The harvest of the Lord shall come. The day so promised, when "the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed."