REVEREND FATHERS IN CHRIST, AND DEAR BRETHREN OF THE LAITY:
GRACE, mercy, and peace be with you. May He Who has predestinated you to be conformed to the image of His Son, and by His prevenient grace called you, and in holy baptism justified you, and by confirmation sealed, anointed, and glorified you, and in the Blessed Sacrament made you partakers of His Divine Nature, and in ordination gathered you into His own prophetical, priestly, and kingly powers, bless your deliberations this day and knit us more closely together in the fellowship of His service.
We meet as soldiers of the cross to pass in review, as it were, before our Chief, as members of a Christian family to deepen our brotherly affection, as joint trustees of a great heritage, costly with the accumulated wisdom of ages, to scrutinize the condition of our trust, as co-laborers called of God to lay the foundations of a Diocesan temple, and to take brotherly counsel together concerning His work.
We have not the prophet's insight into the future. The Divine plan is read by us only in retrospect. We can but stand on the hilltop, and looking back behold how the strong providences of God have protected His Church against the marshalled forces of evil; how the Angel of the Lord has guarded His people, and seeming disasters which skirted the Church like a wall of fire have only cleared the way for its triumphant advance. Again and again has the Church been victorious over seemingly insuperable obstacles, and "the artillery which was brought to bear against her been captured and melted into bells which pealed forth her praise."
But before every assured advance there has ever been a time of special trial, calling for special efforts and faithful endurance. God, my dear brethren, has summoned us in our day and generation and in our place to such a self-sacrificing work. It is a great honor, and if we are true to His inspirations, we shall thank Him for this call throughout eternity. What we feel to be our first duty at the present time, is to deepen our attachment to our own Diocese, make clear its policy, fix its traditions, strengthen the ties of its unity, and develop its resources.
Rightly interested as you are in your own Parishes and Missions, nevertheless you need to guard yourselves and your people from the danger of Congregationalism, and the pride and independence of mere local attachment. We must work as members of one organized body with the recognition of our mutual dependence, with a practical interest in each other's successful progress, with glad readiness to aid each other by our presence in each other's Churches, and by arousing an interest in our own Diocesan work. j
The relation between the Clergy and Laity and myself has always been most happy, but in my late visitation throughout the Diocese there has been such an unusual expression of loyalty and affection that we desire thus publicly to acknowledge it. It is a privilege to minister among those thus bound to us by deepening ties of confidence and charity. You well know, dear brethren, that there is nothing dearer to my heart than your spiritual and temporal welfare and the progress of Christ's kingdom in this Diocese; and of late, knowing as we do the hardness many of the Clergy have to endure, our effort has been to make their lot a little less hard, if it may be, so that their work for the Master may be the more effectual. We feel that it were better just now to build rectories and parish houses, than to increase the number of our Church buildings, and to urge our Laity to share more fully their own temporal means with their Clergy. Do not regard them, dear brethren, as hired servants, or to be paid like other professional persons, but, as they are indeed, members of your own household; they ministering to you of their spiritual goods, you of the Laity to them of your temporal ones; they caring for you in Christ, and you ministering to their needs as to Him. We therefore again beg the Laity to contribute liberally to the support of the Clergy as to Christ Himself. Also be not forgetful to make provision in your wills for the endowment of your Parishes. If every one left something for the sup-poft of the Clergy in his own Parish, the spiritual as well as the temporal welfare of the Diocese would be greatly advanced, and its future secured. Our Clergy should not suffer as some have done, the pinchings of poverty's cold fingers, nor from the anxiety that destroys that peace of mind so needful for their best spiritual efforts. Going from place to place as the Bishop does, we know what others cannot, and our heart has sometimes ached when we have learned that here a Clergyman and his family have been living for a time on bread and potatoes alone, while another was not able to have fresh meat on his table for six weeks, and another, that he might aid a sick wife, went for a long time on one meal a day. The Clergy do not complain. We have heard no complaints. All we fear is that God may, and that if my people do not respond as they should to the needs of Christ as found in His Clergy, He will deal with us on the same mercantile and proportional lines of giving as we deal with Him. Our desire is, eventually, to see our married Clergy each provided with a rectory and $1000 a year, and rather than the Episcopal Endowment Fund should be increased, we would see a Diocesan Clergy Sustentation Fund raised, one which would supplement the stipends of our smaller Parishes. Our Diocesan unity would be more like a family one if we thus, to some extent, shared from out a common purse. It would also have the advantage of removing that popular mistake which regards a larger place or a greater stipend as a sign of greater honor.- It would tend yet further to deepen the attachment of the Clergy to their Diocese, and make,, to the great benefit of their people, their pastorates longer because more secure. God has blessed us with a most loyal body of Clergy and Laity, and so first and foremost speaking in the chartered freedom of our office and the greater one of your love, we desire to impress upon you, dear brethren, the duty of providing a generous support for those who come to you bearing the gifts of heaven in their hands. If the Divine Master has assured us that one great dividing principle of the last Judgment will be our treatment of His members, we may be sure that in respect of everything we have done and everything we have left undone to His Clergy, He will say either in condemnation or in blessing, "Ye have done it as to Me."
In all we see how much there is to cheer us, and we ask ourselves, how can we develop that which is committed to our charge? God has given us much temporal prosperity. How can we develop that which is of most concern, the interior life of our people? First, we of the Clergy of course, by greater watchfulness of our own. The Priest is called to sanctity. Again and again we say to ourselves, it is not by power and might, but by the Spirit, we must prevail; continually renew we our self-consecration; be diligent with our daily examen; our meditation; study of God's Word; personal use of confession; making "Jesus only," and "All for Jesus," our living motto. As Clergy we ought to have our own Diocesan Retreat yearly. If we could not meet all together in one place, why not in two. Let us all pay more careful attention to preaching. It was a grave mistake on the part of some, years ago, to depreciate the prophetical office. If the minister of Christ represents Christ in his Priesthood at the Altar, he is His representative as prophet in the pulpit. The Word delivered in union with the solidarity of the Church, is infallibly true. The Word going forth from a living organ of the Holy Ghost is powerful. The Word thus preached has a Sacramental efficacy. No prophet of old had such a message as we have to bring, to our people. Let us neglect nothing that will help us send home the Gospel arrows. Let us try to preach as Heber the Missionary did, who wrote before every sermon: "I preach as if I ne'er should preach again, a dying sinner to dying men."
The conduct and growth of our Sunday Schools should also be a matter of examination. In regard to their management there is an honest difference of opinion, but their importance in the development of the Church cannot be overestimated. Whether we use the common method or adopt the newer one of Dupanloup, the Priest should not dispense with his corps of teachers. Let him gather them once a week and instruct them himself, and so teach through them. The Children's Mission is a useful means in developing the children's interest in religion. Not the Mission that produces excitement, treating the children as uncovenanted heathen, but that which by the aid of stereopticon illustrations instructs them in the life of our Lord. Such a Mission, with instructions given by one of the Sisters of the Nativity, has been tried and found helpful. Nor can we omit speaking, as a detail of Sunday School work, the advantage of having an occasional Children's Mass, where the children are present and accompany the Liturgical drama of the Redemption with their hymns. Gather the little ones thus around the feet of Jesus and bring them into His Sacramental Presence for a blessing.
Avoiding a controversial tone and spirit, try and make our Church's position and doctrine better known. What an incubus of prejudice hinders our progress; what crude objections are held against us. With a continuity of existence which reaches back to Apostolic times we have been thought to be a creation of the Reformation; with our deepened spiritual life developed by use of our Sacraments, our members have been thought worldly minded and undevout. Of course it requires a spiritual education to discern the higher forms of saintliness, just as it does the highest forms of art. But those who know the Church from within are well aware that the highest forms of sanctity which have ever graced the Christian Church, in martyrs and saints, religious and consecrated, are found within her fold.
Again, we ought to make more use than we do of the secular papers, knowing the editors and those on the newspaper staff, giving them information, which they are glad to receive, about Church events; writing short communications, always in an uncontroversial way, about the Church's customs and progress, and her missionary worthies and their work. Self-advertisement is a hateful thing, but we may give out notices through the press as well as from our pulpits, if our object is the furtherance of the Master's cause and the preaching of His Kingdom.
In furtherance of this it is grateful to the Bishop to notice how some Clergy are uniting with their Parish a Mission in some other town. In this way centers of influence are being developed. In this way also our Lord's injunction is obeyed, who sent out the Disciples not singly, but two and two. Professional companionship is not a necessity in other callings, but it is among Clergy for the maintenance of their own spiritual life. We have a number of such centers now in our Diocese.
Bound together, dear brethren, as we know you all are, Clergy and Laity, in this Diocese, by no ordinary interest, we yet suggest to the Clergy that you can strengthen this tie by aiding one another in your spiritual life and clerical work. Let those who are far away from the Cathedral center and are near one another come together once a quarter or oftener, to offer the Holy Sacrifice, to pray for one another and take counsel concerning your work. During Advent and in Lent we can aid each other, by courses of sermons. Let us also assemble in greater numbers together on occasions of confirmations, the laying of corner-stones, dedications of Churches and ordinations. The people are instructed by what they see as well as what they hear, and the manifestation of our interest in each other helps kindle theirs.
Lastly, there are three special topics we desire you to bring before your people. Much heart pain might be saved by more explicit teaching on the subject of holy matrimony. The state regards marriage as a contract. It legislates for it as such. By the facility it allows of divorce, it is undermining its own foundations. The Church regards holy matrimony as a Sacrament. It was originally ordained by God for natural ends. It has since received from Christ a further end and been endowed with a special grace. The marriage of the baptized is, we read in God's word, to bear witness to the union of Christ and His Church. It was to be a living object lesson to three supreme facts regarding that union, namely: (i) The oneness of the Bridegroom. There is but one Lord. (2) The oneness of the Church. There is but one bride. And lastly, the inseparability of the union. Concerning the oneness of the Bridegroom, remember that Christ has instituted two kinds of marriage--that between the baptized man and woman, and the marriage of either to Himself in the Religious state. This latter is an integral portion of Christianity. The Religious state as established by Christ is a fixed, unalterable condition of life like that in the natural order of the eunuch, to which He likened it. The Religious state is thus a standing witness to the oneness of the Bridegroom and the all-sufficiency of His love.
Pass we to the next point. How did the Gospel provide for a perpetual witness to the oneness of the Church? As to the Church, it is impossible, we know, for man to create a Church. Man may make organizations, but the Church is not an organization. It is a spiritual organism. The difference between an organization and an organism is all the difference between a watch and a blade of grass. An organism is something that has life in itself. It cannot be made, it can only be created. So God alone can create the spiritual organism called His Church. He created it and it was born out of the Old Dispensation on the Day of Pentecost. Just as the body of Christ was born on Christmas Day, so was the Church born on Whitsunday. And as there is but one infant body of the Lord, so is there but one body of the Church. The Body was to grow and develop in size and strength, but it was born in its completeness. The Bride was taken from the side of the Second Adam, and it was and can be but one. How is this great fact to be borne witness to by Christian marriage? The answer is, by the single marriage allowed to Priests. The Presbyter and the Deacon should, it is written, "be the husband of one wife." The text cannot mean that the Priest must be married, for this, as Canon Liddon says, ignores the significance of the word "one." The text does not say, "must be married," but must be the "husband of one wife." Again, the text cannot mean a prohibition of polygamy, for there was no special reason why the Clergy should be warned against that which was then regarded as wrong by all Christians. The text can have but one meaning. The Christian minister was allowed to be married but once. Note the reason. In the Old Dispensation, the High Priest could marry once only, and only be married to a virgin. This marriage was ordained to typify the coming marriage of Christ and His Church. Under the Gospel, that which in the Old was laid upon one man only, was now in the fulness of the Gospel Grace made the general law for the Christian Priest. It may be greatly neglected, as Israel neglected the law, but there it stands. The third great fact which the children of the Kingdom are, to the race of natural men, to bear witness to, is the indissolubility of Christ's union to His Church. The Church is not like an ark, formed to bear men over the waves of this troublesome world up to some distant Heaven, and then having fulfilled its office to be like an old ship broken up. It is the new creation evolved out of the natural one. By means of it and in it, our union of God in Christ is secured and becomes eternal. This truth the Christian Church publishes by regarding marriage as indissoluble. The existing Church law in America allows of the marriage in the one case of an innocent party obtaining divorce for the cause of adultery, but while we must administer the law as it now is, and while admitting there is a difference of opinion among the learned, yet we must observe that the text of the passage in St. Matthew, on which alone the exception is based, is now admitted to be uncertain and obscure, and for the first three centuries was never cited as permitting re-marriage. Teach we therefore the baptized, that it is part of their duty as soldiers of Christ on this brief battlefield of time, to bear witness, by suffering, if need be, to the one Lord and his inseparable union to the one Church.
There is another subject we may well instruct our people in--how to make good deaths. Teach them to regard death as a great opportunity for a growth in grace. It is a time for making acts of faith and love. It is a special means of uniting themselves with Christ and His sufferings. It gives the faithful souls special privileges, to make known requests, and obtain them for the Church's sake and those we love. Born in grace, it is a response to His love in dying for us on the cross. So when illness is serious it is well to use the special provisions the Bible has pointed out of confession and anointing. You know how this is set forth in St. James' Epistle. The history of this Church custom of anointing the sick is interesting and instructive. Our Lord had bestowed gifts upon His Church collectively. He also gave special ones to individuals, and besides clothed His ministers with regular and permanent powers. In the Apostolic days we read of special gifts of healing possessed and exercised by the faithful. The friends of a sick person would naturally resort to such endowed laymen in their distress. We can readily see how the practice might in time need regulation. It was therefore to direct the Christian in case of sickness that the Holy Patriarch St. James, speaking by the Holy Ghost to the whole Church, promulgated the order, and declared for the sick man what was to be done. His friends were not anxiously to seek for lay persons accounted possessed of miraculous healing powers, but send for the Elders of the Church, or their own Parish Priests, for so far as the care of the body was concerned, their prayers, St. James declares, were just as good as that of any special faith healer. Let the faithful trust themselves to the prayers of the Priest. Let them believe that the faithful, fervent prayer of this ordained righteous man availeth much. God will hear him just as he did Elijah, if there is need. But in this time of sickness, it should be remembered that the important concern is the soul. Let the Priest therefore come and minister as the layman, with all his faith, cannot do. Let confession be made and sin be remitted. And further St. James says, "Let the sick be anointed with oil."
When we came to the Diocese we found the holy oils which had been consecrated by our predecessor, and following his example in the tradition of the Diocese, have maintained it. So it is our custom on Maundy Thursday in like manner to consecrate the holy oil for the use of our Clergy and the comfort of Christ's sick members. The giving it is not to be withheld till the sick are in extremis, but may be administered when the illness is technically "serious." The recipient must be a baptized person. It is not to be used in a case of very young children, because it requires responsive spiritual acts, and so is confined to those who have come to years of discretion. It may be repeated. As a means of grace it has its own special significance. This is shown by the way it is administered. As Baptism demands water, and Communion requires food, Unction uses a recognized remedial agent. In a way it thus blesses all that science can do for us. It has its own spiritual teaching and power. In Baptism we are regenerated, in Confirmation sealed, in Communion fed, in Penance restored; by Unction we are healed, assuaged, gladdened, calmed, refreshed. When sickness with its trials, anxieties, temptations, and weariness comes upon us, when spiritual assaults are more keenly felt and the spirit is about to faint, then comes the Unction that brightens, cheers, and strengthens. It is the last anointing from the Great Anointed, breathing peace and calmness as a final adornment and preparation for our presentation at the Court of the Great King. The third subject we believe now of great importance for our people is a clearer apprehension of the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. Our Prayer Book uses the words Priest, Altar, and Sacrifice. In this it conforms to the Gospel. By the Blessing of God the Church has recovered the truth of the Real Presence. However we may regret controversy, it has helped this generation to recover its Catholic heritage. Persons are no longer scared from the true belief by the word "transubstantiation." We know that the doctrine so repudiated in our articles was not that which was subsequently set forth by the Council of Trent. The old objection that Christ's session at the right hand of the Father contradicts His presence in the Eucharist is now recognized as futile, for it is by His session there He is enabled to make His Body present in His Church where He will. Having recovered the blessed truth of the Real Presence we are not now likely to be led away into unprofitable discussions over subtle definitions as to the manner of the Presence. We believe the fact that He is enthroned on our Altars and that Christ whole and entire is present in the Blessed Sacrament. But our people as yet do not, as they ought, regard the Holy Eucharist as the Christian's Sacrifice. Some seem to think that sacrifice belongs to the Jewish Dispensation. Gradually we are learning that Sacrifice belongs to Religion, and that no complete worship can exist without it. It existed in Paradise under the Law, and exists under the Gospel. It will continue for eternity. For Sacrifice is not necessarily connected with sin. It comes out of the tie which binds together the Creator and creature. It is the law of reciprocal exchange between man and God.
Man offers to God an ordained sacrifice by which he acknowledges his condition, and God gives back to man through the ordained means of approach to Him some covenanted blessing of life or grace. The Christian Priest at the Altar, as he consecrates the elements which become Christ's Body and Blood, and breaks the bread and blesses the cup, sets forth before God the act of Christ's death on Calvary. It brings Calvary with its gift into the sphere of our apprehension. Centuries ago Christ made on the Cross an offering for all mankind. Here on the Altar the Priest and people set it forth and plead it for their own individual needs. The Priest's great privilege lies in so offering it. What we desire is, that our people should realize the glory and power of this Christian offering; and which is the highest act of Christian worship.
One thing more, and we conclude. Try and rouse an interest in the great Church movement, by preaching to your people about her missionaries, about her martyr Bishops and her Lowder and Mackonochie, about her saintly doctors like Pusey and our own James de Koven. Let our people come to love and revere them with as great a love as that they give to Washington or Lincoln, and with an enduring enthusiasm worthy of such great Builders with God.
May He Who gathered together the dispersed of Israel, defend you both here and everywhere. And not only may He defend you, but make you faithful shepherds of His sheep. Amen. So that with Christ the Chief Shepherd, you may rejoice in Heaven, being in the pasture of His flock.