REVEREND BRETHREN OF THE CLERGY AND LAITY:
GRACE and peace be with you. May our Divine Master bless you with all spiritual graces, and keep you in His Faith and love. May you year by year grow in devotion to Him, and loyalty to His Church, and be filled with an increasing zeal for the spread of His Kingdom. May you grow above all things in holiness, in union with His inner life, and be clothed with "the righteousness of God by Faith."
We meet this year under manifest tokens of the Divine blessing, and I extend to you my loving salutation in Christ. May all we do at the Council be blessed by the Holy Spirit to us individually, and to the forwarding of the interests of Holy Church.
My Episcopal decision has been sought during the year in a number of difficult moral questions relating to marriage, and we would ask the clergy to make clear to their people the law of the Church, regarding this sacrament. The Church, of course, does not legislate for those outside her body. Concerning the marriage within it, that is, of the baptized, her rule is that such marriage, being in the Lord, is indissoluble. The reason of this is, that as Christ and His Church is indissolubly one, so the marriage of members of the Church should bear witness to this truth.
I am also obliged to state, that our own Communion has, as the law at present stands, made an exception, in a particular case. For my own part, I regret this, and should like to see our practise brought more into conformity with the law expressed in our Prayer Book, that the parties united in the Lord by marriage, are united "till death us do part."
We have also published a letter to our Oneidas, and several pamphlets on the Roman question, which have had a very wide circulation. It has been my humble endeavor to make the two Communions better understand one another, that by recognizing the strength of our own Catholic position, the cause of Christian fellowship and recognition may be advanced.
Let me here also resign my own salary of $300, as taking part in this noble work of Diocesan Endowment.
We will now turn to some matters of theological import. We have been going in and out among you, dear Brethren, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, for the last twenty years. The discoveries of science and in Biblical learning have presented new problems respecting God and Revelation. The old Protestant theologies have ceased to satisfy their theological supporters. The systems based on the theory of the Bible and the Bible only, are disintegrated. The dead hand and mind of Calvin no longer rules the Church he planted. Politically strong, yet theologically weak, the Papacy feels the attack of true Catholicity. The religious future lies not with the Latin race and Latin thought, but with the Broader spirit of the Teutonic races. It is Catholicity, not Protestantism or Papalism, that offers the best solvent and satisfaction to modern thought.
As a loving legacy to you, let me sum up some of the philosophical and theological truths, which God, revealing them to me by His Spirit, has enabled me to teach you during my Episcopate.
Beginning with the greatest and fundamental truths of our religion, allow me to state one of the many arguments which relate to the Being of God.
First: All the theories of philosophers from ancient to modern times have busied themselves with the problem of human knowledge. The problem is, "How do we know what we think we know?" In modern times, Descartes, and Locke, and Berkeley, and Hume, and Kant, and Reid, and Hamilton, and Mansell, and Herbert Spencer, and Hegel have succeeded one another. They have all based their arguments upon an analysis of the human mind. Some have treated of its action as the actions of separate faculties. Others have believed that the action of belief was that of the whole mental nature. Each of these has pointed out the mistakes of his predecessor, but they have either advanced in accepted arguments for the Being of God, or, like Spencer and Huxley, have come to the agnostic position that God was the unknowable.
Now the fundamental error in all these philosophers is, that they do not understand the triple nature of man. He is, as Holy Scripture tells us, a triple unit, consisting of body, soul, and spirit. The distinction between soul and spirit is that the spiritual nature of man is that which brings him into a union with and cognition of God. This is seen by the action of man's nature. He is not born with innate ideas, but the way his nature works shows it to be in connection with a nature other than his own.
He finds himself to have a memory, the trustworthiness of which does not come by experiment, but with which he is born. He must trust his memory. He finds his reasoning faculty obliged to act on a law of causation, which he cannot demonstrate but is obliged to assume. His mind thus acts automatically, just as his heart and stomach do. He believes in universal law from which he argues, but the existence of which his reasoning faculty cannot prove. He arrives at maturity with a knowledge that his reasoning faculty cannot prove. He knows then more than reason can prove. While his sense demonstrates, and his reasoning faculty leads him to an acceptance of ideas, which are probably true, all reasoning can do for him is based on probability. But the action of the spiritual nature is different. It does not reason, it knows. It knows, for instance, there is a real external world. And it knows, because it is in union with the Eternal Thought and Wisdom, in whom we live and move and have our being. This Eternal Thought with which we are in communication is the Divine Intelligence that moves the World. Reason may or may not tell us that probably there is a God, but the spiritual nature of man knows Him. In this knowledge there is a revelation of the distinction between right and wrong, and the duty of man to love and worship Him.
Let me speak a few words about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. There is one God, and in God there are three persons. The Church has ever seen in this a reasonable belief, and realized the beautiful life of God. The doctrine was revealed to us by God Himself. In the beginning of every Dispensation, we find God making a new revelation of His Nature and by a new name. He is to Israel the great I AM. He is to Christians, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. For the effective preservation of this truth our Lord connected it with the initial sacrament of Baptism. It lies thus at the basis of the Christian life and Truth.
It is, as we have said, a most reasonable belief. We are enabled in a way to grasp it by realizing that there are necessarily in the Divine Nature these eternal activities, i.e. God is, God knows, God loves. These actions are eternal, and are related one to another. First, God is. As the Source within the Divine Life He is called Father. In other words, He is pure activity. Secondly, He is intelligent, or a knowing energy. This knowledge is wisdom itself. It is begotten of the Source. It is therefore called the Son. Again, God is love, and love is God. This act of loving proceeds from the Father, and through the Son, and returns to its Source. It is known as the Holy Spirit.
Now these three internal actions within the divine life are self-conscious activities. They know themselves to be. And as self-conscious activities, they are personal. Self-consciousness is equivalent to Personality. Thus there are not three separate individual Gods, but in the one God there are three self-conscious personalities. They know themselves to be and so are persons. They also know each other, and live in a beautiful and reciprocal love. Moreover, these activities are eternal ones. The Son is ever being begotten. The Holy Ghost is ever proceeding. God lives in this beautiful, glorious, all-satisfying jubilation of Being. To think of Him as possessed of but one personality is irrational. For it condemns Him to an eternal solitude in which He would dwell without companionship or a perfect return of His love. The Catholic doctrine of the glorious nature, and blessedness of God in Himself, fills the Christian's soul with a marvelous sense of satisfaction, happiness, and delight.
Another truth we have endeavored to implant in you is the doctrine of the Incarnation.
You know how formerly it was thought that man, having sinned and needing to be reconciled to God, God took upon Himself the nature of man in order that in it He might suffer, and so by suffering make a reparation to God for man's sin. Now the Incarnation of God is an act by which God, taking upon Himself human nature, which is the consummation of created things, united creation in a new way to Himself. Creation was already united to God by God's indwelling power, but the Incarnation was a new and different mode of union. It was not something done which was to be laid aside. God joined human nature to Himself indissolubly. He will wear that nature for all eternity. It is the greatest, grandest work of God. It is the completion of Creation. For it is a passing on of Creation to a new stage of development. We believe that this greatest, grandest, noblest, most wonderful all-glorious work of God was from the very beginning in the Divine Thought. God always intended to become incarnate. To make the Incarnation an after-thought of His, or occasioned by man's sin, is to make this magnificent, glorious, grandest work of God dependent upon the sin of His Creature.
We hold, therefore, that the Incarnation was eternally purposed and that the sin of the Creature did not baffle the work of the Creator. It may have been necessary for the manifestation of His love to come and die for us on the Cross, but it was ever His intent to consummate Creation by an Incarnation which would lead eventually in another state to a Kingdom or a sphere, where all sin would be abolished and pain and sorrow should be no more.
We would have you understand that there are three ways in which man is, or may be, united to God. These are known as the ways of power, of grace, and of glory.
All creation is united to God by way of His power. In Him we all live, and move, and have our being. God is immanent in nature. He is creation's secret force. From the least to the greatest, all things are upheld by Him. Let but His power be withdrawn, and we sink into nothingness.
There is another union with God; and that is by union with the humanity of Christ. This is called union through ordained agencies, a union by grace. It is this which lies at the basis of the difference between immortality and eternal life. Consider this. Philosophy may dispute whether there is a future life or no, but whoever believes in God must believe in a future life, for God is eternal. Whether we are to share in that future life of God or no, and in what way, depends upon the conditions He has made for our attaining it. Now immortality only implies a duration of existence. As the act of annihilation would be as great an act of Divine power as Creation, man cannot annihilate himself. Endowed with the gift of immortality, he must in some form live on, as long as the will of God so ordains. But the gift of eternal life is essentially different from an extension or prolongation of existence. It implies a different union with God than by way of His power. It is a union with God through union with the God-Man Christ. This is the second way in which man may be united with God. First by way of power, and next in Christ by way of grace. This union with Christ by grace is begun here through the sacraments which communicate grace, and by a purification in the expectant state, which fits us for the third mode of union with God.
The third way of union with God is by way of glory. It is based on the union of the human nature of Christ with the divine nature. If we are united to Christ and perfected in Him, we shall finally in Him attain the sight of God, or the Beatific Vision. In this lies the gift of Eternal Life. It is by this union with God that we shall be forever maintained in a sinless condition. If we had immortality only, and were put in a place called Heaven, we should have no security, but, like the angels, through some pride or self-love or disobedience, we should forfeit our condition and fall away as they did.
The problem how we could be maintained in a sinless and so secure position, is solved by the fact that we shall be united to God in Christ in a new way. While our personality will be preserved, in this union with God, we shall be upheld in sinless-ness, and so preserved in eternal bliss. For God, it must be observed, cannot make man happy without making him holy, and his holiness is secured by this union with the humanity of Christ and so with the Beatific Vision of God. It is this offer of eternal life that makes our state of probation here so awful, so tremendous, so far reaching. We may attain the end of eternal life, or we may miss it. God is most merciful, but He has set forth His mercy in the way of Calvary. If we desire His mercy, we must be united to Christ crucified, and so partake of it in Him. We cannot look to His mercy when we reject it as offered to us now. We cannot reject a thing, and at the same time claim and have it. Only in and through Christ can we attain to that new condition with God in glory which is offered to us in Christ crucified and risen.
Ah, sadly, very sadly must we think of those who will miss this proffered end. God's goodness, we know, will finally triumph and a creation will be ushered in where all sin, wickedness, and rebellion will cease. Goodness will eventually triumph. Those who do not attain, by grace received, their end, remaining immortal, will remain in the outer darkness. They cannot destroy themselves on the one hand, and. on the other hand, they cannot repent. For the day of grace is over, and without grace a man can no more repent than an animal can breathe in an exhausted receiver.
If, as some have vainly said, whenever a man repents, God is bound to forgive him, we should then simply be saying that man would conquer God and not God conquer man.
Very awful and very real is this offer to us, then, of eternal life. Christina Rossetti's words resound with a sad emphasis and true:
Self-slain soul, in vain thy sighing;
Self-slain, who shall make thee whole?
Vain the clamour of thy crying,
Toll, bell, toll;
Man's harvest is past; his summer is ended,
Hope and fear are finished at last,
Day hath descended, night hath ascended,
Man's harvest is past!
It has also been ours to declare the great truth, that only in Christ are we saved and in Him attain eternal life.
Our teaching has been that of St. Paul, that God hath given to us Eternal life and this life is in His Son.
Christ and His religion meets, as no other religion does, the fourfold needs of man. Man needs, for his guidance and salvation, certainty. This God gives us in the revelation made in and through Christ. If, as we have said, there is no God, then the Cosmos is an unintelligent nightmare. If there is a Divine Being, unless He has made a revelation of Himself, in the universe, the whole is immoral. The revelation which God has made for Himself is universal and gradually progressive. It has been made by the philosophers, poets, and sages throughout the world, who have received different degrees of illumination. It has especially been revealed through the Hebrew prophets in a way which made the Hebrew nation the religious lighthouse of the world. At last it culminated in Christ, as the complete and final revelation of God to man. But man needed not only to be instructed concerning God and his destiny. If this was all he needed, God might have done it through the ministration of angels. What man needed was a living example. Truth must be embodied in order to be effective, and Christ is the Ideal Pattern man. He is the living example for man to follow. But he finds himself sin-stricken and weak. His sinfulness needs that the broken relation between himself and God shall be restored by a reconciliation. If it was therefore only an example man needed, God might have taken a nature like ours, by creating one from the dust, as He did in the case of the first Adam. In that case He would have been one like us, but not one of us, and so could not make a reconciliation for us. But by taking upon Himself our nature, from one of our race He identifies Himself with us, and He is able to make an offering for us to God which is acceptable. It is an offering which in consequence of His divine nature is one of infinite value. The dignity of His divine Person gives this value to His acts. Yet, if reconciliation completed Christ's work, why should He not have laid aside His humanity after He had made it. Because man not only needed to be reconciled, but to be restored, elevated, re-created. Therefore after the Atonement has been made, Christ's precious side is opened and the Water and the Blood flows forth. It was to teach us that as Eve was taken out of the side of Adam, so the Church, the Bride of Christ, was to be taken out of His humanity. In union with Christ, thus man is reconciled now and elevated finally to the union of God in glory.
In His wonderful love, He descended into Hades, and preached to the spirits who were detained. The Faithful had been looking forward to Christ's coming. John the Baptist had probably announced it. Our Lord communicated Himself by His Word to those who were waiting and willing to receive Him, and they became the spirits of the just, or justified men made perfect. And so as He provided for all those who lived before His advent, so we may hope He provides for all the heathen who walk by the revelation made in conscience or through broken traditions of Himself. As they one by one pass before the Blessed Master, may He not communicate to them, if they are ready for it, all the sacramental means of grace He gives us; and so they, too, are thus saved in Christ and advanced to their own degree of happiness. Christ is thus the Living Way, and the Door, through which we pass through participation of His nature into the eternal life of Glory.
Another great and grand gospel truth is that Christ has established His Gospel in an organization called the Church, and abides in it. Here let me first state how Christ rose from the dead. By His own act, he separated His soul from His Body. He said of His life, "No man taketh it away from me, I lay it down of myself." Uttering a loud cry, His soul went forth, as we have seen, to the place of departed spirits. His Body is placed in the Sepulchre. The fact that is often overlooked is that neither His soul nor His body were separated from His Divine Nature. To use an old illustration, His soul and Body were like the sword in its sheath, which the soldier wears at his side. His death separated the two, just as a soldier might draw his sword from its scabbard. But as neither sword nor sheath are separated from the soldier's person, so neither the Soul nor the Body of Christ was separated from His Divine Nature. His Body, therefore, being connected with its living, sustaining principles, was a living thing. It could not see corruption. When Our Lord's soul became united to His Body, the Resurrection took place. And Christ arose through His grave clothes, and through the stone of His sepulchre, and passed into a new condition of life. He does not come back as Lazarus did. He passes through death. He does not appear to His enemies, for His work with them has been done. But He begins to be in this new sphere of life, in which He establishes His disciples, what God is to the old stage of Creation. As God is immanent in Nature, so the God-man is immanent in this new sphere of life, which He begins by His resurrection. He passes through death into a new life, in which He associates His disciples.
Another truth it is necessary for us to grasp is this: That the work our Lord did during His public life, so far as forming His Church was concerned, was only a preparatory and unfinished one. During that period, He has associated the Twelve with Himself, and in their degree of authority commissioned them.
During the three years of His prophetical ministry, He bade them go and preach, and gave them authority to bind and loose, and respecting doctrine.
During His priestly life, or when He was especially exercising His priestly office, He associated the Apostles with Himself, bidding them "do this" or make this memorial of Himself, as His representative priests. Then, in His risen state, having triumphed as King over death and Hell, He commissioned the Apostles and made them sharers in His Kingship. They were to baptize all nations, and make them subject to the great King, and have power of pardon to restore them if they fell away. But not till the day of Pentecost were the Apostles consecrated. Then Christ sent the Holy Ghost from Himself into them and the whole body of the Church, and made the Apostles "able" ministers of the Word. They were then, by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, enabled to do all those things effectively, to which He had commissioned them. Thus Christ established the Priesthood of His Church, and by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, He made it a living organism.
It is not thus a human society, or a society merely having a divine founder, or a mere organization, but, like the material universe, an organism. It is a spiritual new world rising out of the old material one. It is filled with life, and has the power of communicating life, because the Holy Ghost dwells in it. Moreover, the Holy Spirit does not come to take the place of an absent Lord, but to make Christ, Who dwells in the Church, an ever-present source of life and blessing. Christ is the Church's Head, and the Holy Ghost is its heart. It needs no other Head, and as the Church Militant on earth is only a portion of the Church, it cannot have one.
It is this glorious conception of what the Catholic Church is that you have entered into and enjoy.
Christ revealed through St. John the characteristics of the Worship of the Church. It would be in two kinds, by word and act. As in the old Jewish Dispensation, there was the synagogue and the Temple or sacrificial work, so it was in the Catholic Church.
In the recitation of the Divine Office in the English Prayer Book, we have a revelation of the first. In the Holy Eucharistic sacrifice on the Altar, we have a continuation, in a higher degree, of worship by sacrifice. In respect of the latter, a superficial objection has been raised that Christ on the Cross did away with all sacrifice. The Church has not so understood her Master, and has ever regarded the Holy Eucharist as a sacrifice, and also as -a communion. We can the better understand this doctrine of Christian sacrifice by a remembrance of the Jewish Day of Atonement. On the Day of Atonement, all the Jewish daily sacrifices ceased. God deals with us as a race and as nations. At the Day of Atonement, the Jewish nation, as a nation, was reconciled to God. It had to be done yearly. When it was done, the power to offer the daily Sacrifice was restored. So on Calvary, Christ offered a sacrifice for the whole race of humanity as a whole, and did away with the barrier which hindered the free love of God to His creature. This being done, Christ engifted His Church with the power to offer a continuous memorial of that sacrifice.
Thus the Holy Eucharist is the Church's great act of worship, wherein she sets forth and pleads before the Eternal Father the death of Christ. While this is her great act of worship, she surrounds it with dignified ceremonial and the beauty of lights and incense and holy song. If asked for her authority, she shows that, as God took Moses up into the Mount in the old dispensation, He took St. John in the new state up into heaven, and showed him the heavenly worship, where God is worshiped in spirit and in truth, and that all glorious vision of liturgical ceremonial and choral worship became the directory of the Christian Church. This is our answer to degenerate protestantism.
And what shall the end be? I am not one of those who are looking for the Church's triumph over the World. Christ is forming out of the present race a glorious world, sinless, pure, beautiful, which will last forever. Ere He comes, His Gospel must be preached as a witness to all nations. But I read of no promised victory or conversion of the world as a whole, to Christ. Rather as the unveiling of Christ draws nigh, the World will become more worldly, unbelieving, and rejecting of the Gospel. It will try to form a religion of its own, with the God-man practically left out. But it is our blessed privilege, who have inherited the Faith received from the beginning, to work and labor for the building up of Christ's Kingdom. Our first special duty is to labor for union within our own communion. There is no reason why the Evangelicals and the High Churchmen, all Conservatives, Broads, and Catholics, should not draw together. Oh, if we only would do this, and present to the world our Catholic heritage, our Catholic faith and worship, we could do a marvelous work for God. It is union, UNION, UNION, that we need amongst ourselves!