DEAR BRETHREN OF THE CLERGY AND REVEREND AND LAITY:
MAY the blessings of God's peace be with you, and may His wisdom guide our actions and His charity unite us in His love.
The increasing years of our episcopate only bind me more closely to you all, and the necessary fewness of those that remain more energetically cry within me, "Let not thy zeal slacken, nor thy heart falter, but press on the kingdom." May this Council be, to each and all of us, fraught with new inspirations and full of renewed consecrations to the service of Christ and His Church.
Though it is not my custom to commemorate those who have passed from my own order, yet when one who has held the distinguished position of a Presiding Bishop passes from this sphere of activity to, we hope, a better one beyond, it is fitting that I should pay some tribute to his memory.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Clark, Bishop of Rhode Island, and Presiding Bishop of our Church, lingered to a very great age, and was, we believe, the oldest Bishop in Christendom. He was a man of warm, genial, and loving temperament. He was notably broad and liberal in his theological sympathies. He was, in his prime, noted for being one of the eloquent preachers of his day. He was distinguished for his literary ability and his charming style. While not himself fond of ritual in the Church's services, he welcomed the growth in his diocese of all that tended to its devotional expression. He was a man of very earnest piety, and those who knew him intimately were always impressed with his evangelical spirit.
We were always on kindly terms of intercourse, and I believe his last official act was to give me a letter bearing his own greetings and commending me to His Eminence, the Most Reverend Antonius, Archbishop and Metropolitan of St. Petersburg.
We officiated at three funerals during the year, at each of which, we are glad to state, there was a Requiem Mass. One reason given by a distinguished theologian for the falling away of faith in the last century was the neglect of prayers for the dead. The example of our Lord in taking part in the synagogue prayers where they are remembered is certainly sufficient warrant for our doing so.
Our Prayer Book, in pleading during the Eucharistic Canon for "the whole Church," embraces those who are in the Church Expectant, as well as in the Church Militant. Let us hope the custom of celebrations of the Holy Communion at funerals will become more frequent, and also the keeping in like manner what, under old English phrase, was called "The Year's Mind."
The duty of visitation of the Diocese belonging to the Right Reverend, our Coadjutor, has relieved me of much labor. It has been our hope that, by publication of tracts and other writings, we could extend the knowledge of the Church and her teaching. For what gives greatest strength and vitality to the Diocese is "a well-instructed laity." The series of Fond du Lac Tracts has been well received, the first of them, "The Church in the New Testament," having obtained an issue of 30,000. It is our hope to put forth a work of some size in the Autumn called "Christian and Catholic."
It has been our happy privilege during the past year, in response to an invitation, to visit Russia, and confer with some of its leading ecclesiastics. It occupied several months, but the journey and labor were, we believe, well expended. We were accompanied by our chaplain, and W. J. Birkbeck, Esq., of England, who, by his knowledge of the country and its language and leading churchmen, was of the greatest assistance.
We visited at St. Petersburg, and were entertained at the Troitsa Monastery by the courtesy of His Eminence Archbishop Vladimir, Metropolitan of Moscow, who made us his honored guests at the celebrated Chudoff Monastery, within the Kremlin.
We attended many services where we were received with all the respectful recognition belonging to our Episcopal order. During our stay we had many opportunities given for conference with the Russian theologians, and our reception at the Academy of St. Petersburg by the Professors and students was full of Christian recognition and expressed desire for a better understanding and closer communion between our Churches. What struck us most forcibly was the great spirit of charity which animated them and expressed itself in their Liturgy. One could but be impressed that here was a Liturgy which had been preserved with comparatively little variation from the earliest times. It was rich with the teaching of the Eastern Fathers, Chrysostom and Basil, full of Christian symbolism and the spirit of the Apostles.
The East presents a spectacle of Churches which have not passed through the centralizing effects of feudalism, or the rationalistic speculations of scholasticism. Conservatism, as you know, is the dominant controlling influence in the East. They have preserved the ancient Church worship, which is full of ceremonial and of inspiring devotion. Their Lord's Day service begins on Saturday night, and on Saturday the Churches which we attended were always very full, the larger portion of the congregation in all instances consisting of men. In one Church, that of St. Saviour, in Moscow, which was built to commemorate the national deliverance from Napoleon, we saw on a Sunday morning a congregation of over ten thousand people.
The Orthodox Church holds, with great tenacity, the Faith as expressed by the undivided Church and in the seven Ecumenical Councils. In practise they give, like ourselves, the Blessed Sacrament in both kinds. The parochial clergy are married. They pray as we do, and as our Lord did, for the departed, but reject Rome's theories of Purgatory and indulgences. They hold firmly the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ's Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, as occasioned by the priest's consecration and the invocation of the Holy Ghost. They do not hold what our Article condemns as the Romish Doctrine of transubstantiation, which postulates the destruction of the elements. Stating what we believe to be the right interpretation of our Catechism and Articles to the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg, he said our doctrine was the same as their own. They invoke in their services the prayers of the Saints. They do this in the firm conviction that the Church, living and departed, "but one communion makes." It is all to them one spiritual body, engaged in one great act of service and worship to Almighty God. It is the Holy Ghost that binds the members of the Church together and fills them with love. Love being an active virtue, it must manifest itself to all members of the body, and so they pray for those who are gone and ask their prayers for themselves. The difficulty which our rationalizing western mind raises, how they can hear our prayers, does not trouble their devout minds. It is not as if they were in the flesh, a question of how they can hear, but being in the spirit and united in God, how they may know. If not by the ministration of angels, by revelation of God they may easily be made acquainted with our desires. Unlike, however, the Roman Church, they not only ask the Saints to intercede for them, but, knowing that the Saints, in whatever state they may be, need God's sustaining care, they make their supplication for them. They in their Liturgy say: "We offer to Thee this rational worship for these that are in the Faith deceased. Forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, continent ones, and every righteous spirit in faith made perfect, especially our holy, undefiled, exceedingly blessed, glorious Lady, Theotokos and ever Virgin Mary."
In Russia there are 100,000,000 belonging to the Orthodox Faith, and many millions more connected with the Eastern Church, under the Metropolitans of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, and the Holy Governing Synod of Greece.
Is it too much to hope that in time to come fuller Christian fellowship will be established between us and intercommunion allowed between the several churches, where the opportunity of obtaining the Holy Sacrament in their own Church cannot be had?
One difference which has kept the East and West apart has been the insertion within the Nicene Creed of the words, "And the Son." This is not a part of the original Nicene Creed, but became accepted in the West largely through the authority of the Pope. If, the Easterns say, "We admit the right of the Pope to add to the creed in one matter, why should we not in others?" They cannot, therefore, consistently alter the portion they have.
It is for us to say what we should do in the promotion of union. It has been suggested in England, by an insertion of a note in the Prayer Book, that these words are not part of the Creed, or we might act in a more straightforward manner and strike them out.
Another matter which occurred during the year, of interest to the Diocese, is the removal of the Mother House of the Sisters of the Holy Nativity to Fond du Lac.
A few years ago we find that there were over two thousand professed religious or novices in the Anglican Church, and with a value of property estimated in England at seven hundred thousand, and an income from various sources exceeding ninety thousand pounds. In America we have, thanks be to God, to notice during this year the dedication of the Monastery of the Holy Cross Fathers at West Park, N. Y., and of the magnificent convent of St. Mary's Sisters, our largest community, at Peekskill. There are now three orders of Priests, fourteen communities of Sisters, and three institutions of Deaconesses. God bless them all.
We only mention this to show how firm a footing the religious life has obtained, and how essential a branch of the Church work it has become. It is said that there are more Sisters in the English Church to-day than there were at the time of the Reformation. Its real strength lies, of course, in the entire consecration of its members to Christ and His Church.
This life adapting itself to the needs of advancing civilization has taken on different forms from what it had in earlier times. It began in the form of the Hermit and the Anchorite. Next the community or monastic system followed. Then the preaching friars broke out from cell and enclosure, and became revival preachers in the Middle Ages, and, lastly, the clerks Regular, throwing aside monastic discipline, became great educators or efficient parish priests.
The more modern communities have devoted themselves to education and to the sick, the poor, the fallen and outcast. The Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity was founded twenty-two years ago. It had, we believed, a calling of God, and was raised up for a special work.
What we felt, as its founder, was that there was a great need in our Anglican Church for a body of consecrated women, trained as religious workers, who would supplement and aid the parochial clergy in their administration. So, while other Sisterhoods gave themselves to schools, hospitals and nursing of the sick, orphanages and penitentiaries, we purposely excluded ourselves from these fields of Christian labor. Noble and excellent as they are, we felt that the clergy especially needed the aid of workers in their parishes who could assist in the formation of guilds, Sunday Schools, in parish visiting, and give instructions to those preparing for Baptism, Confirmation, and the other Sacraments. They would also give assistance to missioners when holding parochial missions. They would have a lending library for the circulation of Church literature. They would aid in providing vestments for the clergy, and in their own Chapels keep up before God's Altar intercessory prayers for the conversion of sinners and the needs of the Church. As it is, their Sisterhood, and it has been formed for their special benefit, we may fairly ask the clergy to take an especial interest in its development. Nothing will grow without cooperation.
May we not ask them to preach at least one sermon a year on Vocation and a "Sister's Life"? Very little is understood concerning it. Instead of objecting, as parents sometimes do, to their daughters entering a Sisterhood, they should be taught to realize that it is the very highest of privileges to give a child as a Priest or a Sister to God. By calling one of their own children, God gives the highest honor He can bestow upon them. When God puts the desire for self-consecration into a child's heart, it is one proof that God is calling that person into His service. But it is always a call to the parent as well as to the child. It is the call to one to come, and to the other to let go, and if the call is responded to by each, each hereafter will have part in the reward.
Parents are ordinarily willing to allow their daughters to be married and go from the old homestead, and if the person who seeks their daughter's hand is a person especially worthy, they more readily give their consent. They should regard the religious life in the same light. It is Christ, the Prince Himself, who comes and seeks the child, your daughter, and proffers the high privilege of a betrothal to Himself here and an especial following of Him hereafter.
If, when our country was in danger, men could be had by the thousands to risk their lives for the preservation of the Union, why, in this great struggle for the revival of the Catholic Faith, dearer to God and more important to man than the existence of any nation, should there not be men and women, at least by the hundred, to consecrate their lives to our Blessed Lord for the advancement of the Kingdom?
But, much as we have to thank God for, and which has been brought about by the labors of a band of Clergy second to none in their devotion and zeal, that which most affects us is the Diocese's spiritual growth. The real strength of Parish or Diocese lies in the interior life of its members and its increasing spirituality.
It is a power which cannot be invoiced or put on the weigher's scale, or summed up in human statistics. The more we are filled with the Holy Spirit, the more effectually can God work through us. There is, we humbly believe, amongst us an increase of this life, and, as its fruits, a greater sense of the blessedness of giving and an increase in the knowledge of the Church's principles. Surrounded, as we are, by so many conflicting systems, it becomes us, as Churchmen, to be able to give a reason for the faith that is in us.
In the coming Autumn the General Convention meets at Boston. We would suggest that the Council, in view of the questions that will be presented, reaffirm its former resolutions, which have embodied the opinions of this Diocese from its beginning, and that it recommend the adoption of the Provincial System, the removal of such wording in our present Canon on Marriage as will bring it into conformity with the Book of Common Prayer, and such a correction of the name of our Church on the title page of the Prayer Book as will bring it into agreement with our profession in the Creed.
Let me press on the Laity the duty of an earnest and careful study of their Church and its doctrines as embodied in the Prayer Book. Examine yourselves, dear brethren, sometimes in this particular. Do I give as much time, thought, and study to the better understanding of the Church as I do to politics, literature, or business? Do you read Church books, such as "Catholic Principles"? Have you read Wakeman's or any other English Church History? Have you grasped the Divine origin of the Church in contrast with the human origin of all the sects? Along with its Divine origin, have you a firm belief in the Apostolic Succession of its sacred ministry, the Church's continuity, its sacramental system? Do you hold the Faith witnessed by the testimony of undivided Christendom? My heart rejoices in the satisfaction that you do so receive and hold the Faith. It is thus that the Church furnishes all her humble-minded and loyal children, clergy and laity, with an antidote against all forms of modern error.
The Faith was not devised by the wit of man and is not at its mercy. It is the utterance of the Holy Ghost, speaking through the Church and certified by the general acceptance and Christian consciousness of the whole Catholic Body.
Shining out as its primary truth is the doctrine of the Incarnation. The Church Catholic, and our own as a part of it, teaches it in the Creed. The Only Begotten Son of God, One in substance with the Father, took our Nature, begotten by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary. He, who is the Eternal Word, who was from the beginning with God and was God, was made Flesh. He, by whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made that was made, became Man. The Eternal, Intelligent, Infinite, Energy and Will, the Almighty God, who made and sustains the universe, vouchsafed thus to enter creation and unite our nature to His own, and so join creation in a new union with Himself. It was not only to be united to Himself by His immanence in it, sustaining it by His power, but by an Incarnation. The Incarnation was effected, and human nature was taken into union with the Divine Nature by the conception of the Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Ghost. God and man, the Divine and human natures, were thus united. It is also a part of the Christian faith to know and believe how these two natures were united. They were united in one Person. There is an obvious distinction between "nature" and "person." We see this in ourselves. Each one of us has a nature, and behind the nature there is our person. It comes out in our common speech when we say, "I think," "I will," "I love." There is an "Ego" or "I" behind our nature. So with the Son of God. There exists in Him both His Divine nature and the "Ego" or Person. Now the Incarnate act was a joining of human nature to His Divine Nature. It is of the Faith that He did not take upon Himself the nature of a man, for then there would have been two natures and two personalities, a human and a divine Person. But He took on Himself the nature of man, i.e., human nature, and joined the two natures together in His one Person. There being but one "I" behind His dual natures, whatever was done in or through His human nature, the "I" or God did it.
This is the fundamental fact upon which the existence and life of the Church of Christ depend, and to which, inspired and guarded by the Holy Ghost, she has throughout all the ages and in all lands borne witness. Jesus Christ was not a man filled with some divine afflatus, and so elevated above His fellow-creatures. He was not divine in the sense that any man may be said to be divine only in a unique degree. For he had a preexistent life, as He declares: "Before Abraham was I am." He was not some being, however exalted, who was related to God by an act of creation: for He was uncreate. "Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." As no being was in existence before the world was, save God who made it, He was the uncreated God. He declared that He and the Father were one, not by any moral union, but as one Thing. He declared His relation to the Father was one of equality. He was in the Father and the Father in Him by a reciprocity, so that He has all things in common with the Father. So absolute is their identity of being, that to have seen Him, is to have seen the Father, to have known Him is to have known the Father also. He contradicts those who would assign to Him a human origin, saying that He was from above and came down from Heaven. He states that while thus visible upon earth, He is still really in Heaven. He makes such claims concerning Himself as were inconsistent with common moral rectitude, if not made obligatory by the fact of His being absolutely God. He tells us that there is none good but one, and that is God, and then claims the title of God for Himself, as the Good Shepherd. He reveals to us the Triple Personality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and tells us that in the one divine nature which they share in common, the personality of the Father as the Source, takes precedence of Himself as the Son; and so, too, in respect to His human nature, the Father is greater than Himself. But as one with the Father, He allows Himself to be worshiped as God. He asserts that He is the Life itself, and can give Eternal life, and will come, as only God can, and judge all mankind.
Thus did God become Incarnate, and the two natures, divine and human, were joined together in one Person. It was to guard this truth that the Church in her Ecumenical Councils proclaimed and gave to the Blessed Virgin Mary the title of Theo-tokos, Mother, or Bringer-forth of God. It has been the title the Church has formally and solemnly given her, and which her children have joyfully and with reverence accepted ever since. It is in consequence of this union of the two natures in one Ego, that the Church has ever taught that whatever was done or said by the Incarnate, was done by God Himself. God, it was seen, had wrapped around His Divine nature our humanity and His Divine Person acted through it. So it was Almighty God who came amongst us and lay in Mary's arms, and looked out on the world through human eyes, and in that nature walked and taught and suffered death, and rose and carried that human nature into the Right Hand of Power.
It is a very shallow criticism that asks why should Almighty God come to such a little speck of a planet as our own? If the last surmises of science are true this planet is the jewel of the universe and probably the only one inhabited by beings like ourselves. Be this as it may, the universe is one whole entity, and believing that in the progressive evolution and development of creation, God ever purposed to become Incarnate, and elevate it into a new union with Himself, He must have entered it at some one locality. He enters it here, and in our planet, because human nature is an epitome of creation, and furnishes the most fitting point of contact. But He enters it, not for us only, but for the wider purposes which will be revealed to those who follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, to bind all things together in one, even Himself, both which are in heaven and in earth.
The truth of the Incarnation is thus the fundamental truth of Christianity. To question it is to renounce the guidance of the Holy Ghost speaking through the authorized Councils of the Church for the ever-varying rationalizings of the human intellect. It is to take up the illogical position that Christ was a divinely inspired teacher sent from God, who so badly performed His mission as to lead the great majority of His followers, by worshiping Him as God, into the sin of idolatry. The fact of our Lord's Virgin birth, and the doctrine of His absolute Deity as being of one substance with the Father, the Church has put in her Creed. She has stated it most clearly, and, as we have stated to you, in her Second Article of Religion: "The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man's nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, of her substance; so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is One Christ, very God, and very Man." This is the doctrine of our Church, which we, as her ministers, at our ordination solemnly swore to uphold. To teach any other doctrine by in any wise minimizing or trying to put new interpretations on it is for us, as Clergy, to be false to our ordination vows. It is not teaching the Church's doctrine merely to say we believe in the divinity of Christ. A Unitarian might do that. It is denying the doctrine when we question the fact that God Almighty came to this little atom of a planet and took flesh of the Virgin Mary. We of the clergy have been made by the Church her ministers to teach, not what we think is true, but what s"he puts into our mouths to teach. Her pulpit is not an open pulpit for the ventilation of our own opinions or belief. There are matters wherein differences of opinion are allowed, but the doctrine of the Incarnation as stated in the Creed and Articles is not one of them. It is no excuse to say there are here and there persons to be found who question the absolute Deity of Jesus Christ. It is the plain statement of the Articles and Creed that He was of one Substance with the Father. When we cannot accept ex-animo and preach this doctrine of the Incarnation and of the Virgin Birth, our part as honorable men is to resign back to the Church the office with which she has entrusted us.
Dear Brethren of the Clergy and Laity, we will not detain you longer. Keep the faith once delivered. Rally to the cause of Jesus Christ. Work for the progress of His Kingdom. The Faith is preserved for us in the Church's Conciliar decrees, in the Creeds and Sacraments, and our Book of Common Prayer. In the great essentials we are all one, one in Christ and one in Christian fellowship. Let us grow in Christian charity, in the love that binds us more closely to one another and to our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.