DEARLY Beloved in the Lord, grace and peace be with you from God the Father and our Lord and only Saviour, Jesus Christ. United together in Him by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, we bid you welcome, and invoke His guidance on your deliberations. Unable by our increasing years to visit you as frequently as once we did, we have you the more in our heart, daily praying for your increase in grace and that the course of this world may be so ordered that all things may work together for your good. For we remember well your kind reception of us when we first began to minister the word among you and the sacred relation of chief pastor and people was established between us. There is very much for us to rejoice in together as we see what the Lord has wrought for us. Our Diocese has developed beyond our expectation. The more secure test of improvement is to be seen in the largely increased number of early communions made, especially at Lent and the great festivals, and the resort to the grace of sacerdotal absolution. The Women's Auxiliary, which was in abeyance on our arrival, has now for years been doing an increasingly successful work. Our young ladies' school, or college as we hope we may soon call it, has attained a proficiency unsurpassed by any like institution. The advent here of the community of the Holy Nativity and the erection of its large Convent is full of promise for the further development of spiritual work in our Diocese. But verily, we may say, Behold what hath not God wrought for us! We may well lift up our hearts in devout thankfulness to Him, and with fresh courage go forward.
Looking at the secondary cause of our development, we must first assign it to the loving unity of the clergy with one another in all matters relating to the faith and worship of the Church, and in their loyal unity to their head. It has been a marked manifestation of Christian fellowship, and with perhaps one exception it has been universal. We have been of one heart and mind in our apostolic teaching and practise. We have worked together as soldiers in a common cause, as brothers in one Christian family. The Bishop could not have had more devoted sons; the clergy might have had a better and wiser leader, but no one who could have loved them more. Your interests have been the Bishop's interests. Your sorrows and trials, your successes and joys, have been his. And we of the clergy have been sustained by the generous confidence and cooperation of loyal-hearted laymen. Perhaps in no other part of the Catholic Church has their participation in its priesthood and kingship been more recognized. One reason we may venture to say is that we doubt whether in any part or time it has been more deserved. They have stood by their clergy and upheld them in their endeavors. They have willingly accepted the decisions of my office when promoted; and, even if they thought them mistaken, have always had confidence in the integrity of my endeavor to do justice to all. It has been a singularly united Diocese, and to this in a large measure our success has been due. For to Parishes and Dioceses, as to all religious organizations, the same rule holds good that nothing from without can do us any harm if the members are united and one at heart among themselves.
Another cause of the Church's growth has been the increased intelligent appreciation of its spiritual character and organization. To most of us the apprehension of the Church as the kingdom of Christ is a progressive one. Born in it by Baptism, we have learned to love it as a spiritual mother. Brought into it by conversion, we have loved it for the blessings it has brought to us. As we have ripened in the spiritual life, we have recognized its spiritual power. The kingdom has not been something merely without us, but has been a protecting and developing source of strength within us. As we have made further progress we have learned to hold in true balance the outward and the inward portions of the kingdom. The great law of the preservation of life which is seen in nature of "an outward and an inward" is found in this dual character of the Church. Outwardly the Church is seen to be not a mere human society. It was not conceived by man. It was not established by human power. It was called into existence by the word of Jesus Christ, and endowed with the power of the Holy Spirit. In virtue of the Divine indwelling, the gates of hell have not prevailed against it. All the forces of evil have at times attacked it. Roman statesmen, armed with imperial power, sought to crush it by a series of persecutions. The fierce inroads of barbarism that swept the ancient civilization away, destroyed not the Church of Christ. In its faith and in its saints, barbarism met its defeat, and the conquerors of Rome became the subjects of the Church. Mohammedanism arose with its seductive appeal to sensuality and its falsehood of pretended reform; and the power of the evil prophet, after imperiling the existence of civilized Europe, met its overthrow and became a decaying force. Preserved against all outward attacks of evil, the Church has survived all the more dissolvent forces of worldliness and sin within. Though divided, East and West, it has nevertheless survived in the West the subtleties of rationalism, and the imperialism of Rome; and in the East maintained, in spite of all its outward and inward trials, the ancient Orthodox Faith. The Church in England preserved its continuity at the Reformation, its Orders and Sacraments and Catholic Faith. And so, the Church of Christ, preserved by its resurrection power, has come down to us. It is the ark of safety for an engulfed humanity; the city of refuge for the soul of man.
It is moreover recognized to be not merely a Divine institution, but a marvelous "new creation." It is a spiritual temple formed of redeemed souls, filled with the light of the Holy Ghost, in which Jesus Christ, glorified, lives and rules. It is a new kingdom superinduced on the order of nature and having laws of its own. It is this realization of the Church as the everlasting and enduring kingdom of God Incarnate, glorious with the light of His Divine person, filled with the nine choirs of angeh, resonant with the worship of the Church, potent through the intercessions of the saints, and before whose splendor all earthly magnificence becomes as faded ashes, which is and ever has been the inspiration of its members. It is because we, as churchmen, have more fully realized that the Church is no human organization, not a congregation of mere believers, not a man-made sect; but it is a new creation which, being evolved out of the old material and natural one, is to endure for all eternity, as our everlasting home, the great living Spiritual Temple--and as the Bride of God.
If you have not yet attained to this, seek it, pray for it. It should be as real to you as any of the scenes of nature, and more so than the dissolving kingdoms of this world. Recognizing the good to be found in all who call themselves Christians, you know also those fuller gifts of the Gospel which we in the Catholic Church possess: God is in you; you are partakers of the Divine nature; you are one with Christ and coheirs with Him. You are living stones of His Living Temple. You are the elect of God, and predestinated to be conformed to the Image of His Son. Be not ashamed to call yourselves by the name of Catholic, and claim all that belongs to you by your Catholic heritage. This Catholic Church, its teachings, its doctrines, its worship, its discipline, its glory is yours. No decoration, or position, or office that earth's monarchs can give, can for a moment be compared with the decoration, nobility, and elevation you have through union with your Lord and King.
Again, we have been united, clergy and laity, in the Faith. We of the clergy have endeavored after the apostolic injunction and in its spirit to preach unto you "the whole counsel of God." We have declared the Faith as it has been received from the beginning, as it has been set forth in the creeds, Liturgies, and Sacraments, protected by the definitions of the seven Ecumenical Councils, and brought home to us for practical use in our Book of Common Prayer. Our success is a convincing evidence that the Church so presented meets, as nothing else has met, the needs of our common humanity; for, here in Wisconsin, nearly all peoples come together to form one national life. Yet in spite of all the differences engendered by race and education, the Church's Faith and Sacraments, when made known, are equally welcomed by all. It has been thus a great encouragement and source of rejoicing that it has been found thus to provide for the spiritual needs of all our fellow-countrymen. It is seen by its operation here in our Diocese to be not a religion transplanted from the Eastern States and adapted to merely those of English descent. Like the different nationalities at the day of Pentecost, we find here Germans, Frenchmen, Belgians, Swedes, Bohemians, as well as Americans, recognizing the Gospel that belongs to them all. The Church proves her Catholicity by being able to meet the needs of all men.
If it can reach thus to all classes and races of men, we must feel that it is especially adapted to the growing needs of our whole country. We have indeed this treasure in earthen vessels. We all feel our own imperfections. We can but acknowledge our mistakes, but, possessed as we are of this mighty treasure,--and not resting in ourselves but knowing that ofttimes God chooses the most imperfect instruments for His service,--we must arouse ourselves with new courage and consecration to press forward His kingdom.
Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing make you afraid. Every age will make its own attack upon the Christian religion. The discoveries of science in the last century, which at first seemed to exclude God from the creation He had made, have been found, as time has gone on, rather to fortify the argument for His existence. A permanent, directing, and intelligent energy is seen to be pulsating throughout all creation. Materialism has met its defeat. Few now deny the existence of a personal God. Nothing that science has demonstrated to be true is found to contradict any dogma declared to be such by Ecumenical authority. It has now, as before, come to pass that the guns which were thought to imperil our position -- being captured--have been cast into bells to tell forth our victory. A higher criticism, not to be rejected within its true limits, may have, like modern science, shown us some of the processes of the Bible's formation; but this does not disprove its inspiration any more than the discovery of an evolutionary prbcess in nature disproves the existence of a God. It does not affect the Faith to hold that the mystery of creation and the early chapters of Genesis are allegorical rather than historical. We loyally accept the belief that the Scriptures are the Word of God and have the Holy Spirit for their author. But it is to be observed that there is no decree that the writers of the Sacred Book were mere mechanical agents writing by dictation. There is also a distinction to be observed between the ideas of "Revelation" and "Inspiration." Also, inspiration is of different degrees and differs according to its purpose. There is, too, the inspiration of selection as well as of suggestion; and there is in the Holy Scriptures, for which we must allow, a human element. God uses at times the forgetfulness, it may be, of those He employs to set forth the lessons He wishes to convey. Moreover, the Holy Scriptures are seen to contain a record of God's progressive revelation of Himself and the standard of man's duty, according to His creatures' development and needs. The lives of the Old Testament worthies and their denunciation of their enemies are not to be tried by our Christian standards. Nor is it the meaning or intention of the Old Testament'writers that we are to seek to be guided by; but, rather, the intention and purpose of the real author who is the Holy Spirit. And so, it is by the Church, and by the Church only, in whom the Spirit dwells, that the Scriptures can be fully and rightly interpreted. The same principle of interpretation, as seen in the New Testament, that guided our Lord and the apostles, has guided the Church. What the Holy Spirit through the Church reads out of the Holy Scriptures, that the Holy Spirit as their Author put into them to be so applied, and be understood. But the Bible is subordinate to the Church, for it was written by the Church, is certified to us by the Church, and the Church is its interpreter. The Church teaches; the Bible proves. It is, as interpreted by the Church, one of the corroborating witnesses to the Church's faithfulness and testimony. She brings by her sacramental system Christ, personally, home to us; and on Him and in Him our faith securely rests.
Thus it must be remembered that there are two ways of looking at the revelation of Divine truth. It cannot be understood or tested, accepted or rejected, merely by human reason or by the natural man. It can only be rightly understood by those who live in the environment of the spiritual organism, of the Holy Catholic Church, and who, being filled with the light of the Holy Spirit, accept the Church's traditional and dogmatic teaching. Our natural reasoning powers were not given us that thereby we might test the truth of revelation; but, being illuminated by the gift and virtue of faith, the better to understand that which has been revealed to us in and by Christ's Church. Most of those, for instance, who deny the miracles of the Gospel or the Virgin Birth of our Lord, or the Resurrection of His Crucified Body, are persons living without the Catholic Church, and so without the sphere of spiritual illumination; or, if some are technically within it by reason of their Church membership, nevertheless because they do not accept the Church's voice, they are practically without it. They are blind leaders of the blind. Saying they see, they walk in darkness. The truth, as it is revealed in Christ, is indeed glorious. It is the unfolding of a mystery which from all eternity has been hid in God; but to understand it, faith is required; and faith comes to us as a gift of God. And "real faith," as that great servant of His, Dr. Pusey, said, "must be entire." Accepting its mysteries as little children, with humble and losing hearts, let us go forward with enthusiastic devotion to our Blessed Lord and His kingdom. Go forward with tremendous energy, for the attacks of Satan increase in subtlety, and the second coming of our Lord draweth nigh.
And lastly, our great encouragement lies in this: The growing spiritual life of the Diocese. There is, we believe, a keener apprehension of God and a growing personal knowledge of Him. Here in America, especially in this portion of it, the interests of men were for a long time intensely absorbed in business. You all have felt, in a more or less degree, its stimulating excitement. Our time has been especially marked by its intense greed for wealth; but among the more intelligent and enlightened a better spirit is beginning. There is something higher, nobler of attainment, and more satisfying than the accumulation of wealth or its enjoyments can bring. Many are becoming emancipated from a slavery of Mammon, finding higher enjoyment in the true riches of the soul. Along with this may we not note a better attendance at Church, more regular and careful use of the Sacraments, a love of our Churches, and a desire for their adornment, a recognition of the fact that they are not meeting-houses, but the covenanted places where God places His Name and pledges Himself to meet His people. Worship is not only recognized as a matter of duty, but is coming to be a refreshment and joy. Men are learning more of what worship is. It is a communion between God and the soul. Every Sunday is looked forward to with joy, and its worship a foretaste of heaven.
Let us hope that the world is losing its grasp on us; that within souls the true, Divine life is being developed; that unseen to man, but known to God, the spiritual man is being formed within; that, though we jostle together in the world's business and intercourse, not seeing the marks that differentiate the natural man from the spiritual man, nevertheless the new man created in Christ Jesus, while living in the world, is yet detached from it. His feet may press the earth, but his conversation is in heaven. He goes on increasingly from grace to grace, becoming more and more beautiful in the sight of angels and saints, and more ready to meet through Christ's infinite mercy, as the natural man cannot, his Saviour and his Judge.
We have brought all this before you, dearly beloved, in the hope that it may inspire you all, clergy and laity, with the desire for a forward movement in our Diocese. One of this kind has already been inaugurated in the neighboring Dioceses. Men's hearts, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, have been drawn together, inspired with a fresh desire to do something more for the Church of Christ.
We know that there are general signs of a revival of religion throughout the country. It would be a denial of Church history not to acknowledge that such seasons of refreshment do come. Surely we may all admit that there is great need of a revival of true religion in our country; a revival not of a mere emotional kind, or "a believe that you are saved theology," but a revival which will make men surrender themselves in very deed to Christ as their Lord, which will inspire within them the desire for a higher standard of morality in business and in politics as well as in religion; which will make them more devoted to the cause of Christ, and which will show itself in their lives and gifts and in their prayers. But if a revival is to come in our own Diocese, the inception of it must come from the laity, and especially from the men. We of the clergy must be willing to aid them, but the laymen must, in this case especially, lead the way. We have thought that in the coming autumn a series of missions might be preached simultaneously in a number of our Churches. If they are to be at all successful in winning souls to Christ and developing the spiritual life among us, they must be carefully and prayerfully prepared for. They must be taken up in the various missions and parishes, especially by the laymen organizing themselves together for the purposes of these missions. Men must be willing to set apart and give up some time and labor to this work, making their domestic arrangements such that they can pledge their attendance and that of their families. Men must, in spite of their natural timidness, be bold to speak up for Christ, to confess outwardly their faith in Him, and to strive to help individuals. The revival would be preceded by a great increase of prayers in our churches and in our closets.
Prayers for the conversion of special individuals and for the forwarding of special works.
May God grant to our Diocese and to all its members a greater spirit of prayer and devotion.