REVEREND BRETHREN OF THE CLERGY, AND MY DEAR LAITY, BELOVED IN CHRIST:
GRACE, mercy, and peace be with you! May God's Holy Spirit unite us in His Love, and guide our deliberations to His Glory, and the advancement of His Kingdom! We have much, very much to be thankful for, and must go forth with fresh courage and reinforced zeal.
I have to notice with deep affection the passing of Sister Ruth Margaret, the Reverend Mother Foundress of the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity. She was born in Boston, and attained the great age of eighty-four years. Surrounded by the highest culture of the time, she was brought up under strong Unitarian influences. The celebrated Dr. Walker, a great Unitarian Divine, at one time President of Harvard College, was her uncle. But at the time when Dr. Huntington, subsequently Bishop of Central New York, left the Unitarian body, of which he was a distinguished member, and came into the Church, she also was led into the full apprehension of the Faith. She became a very active Church worker, and was further led on to consecrate herself and her means to the Religious Life. Drawn especially to its devotional side, she was providentially guided, with some others, to found the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity.
She combined great practical wisdom with a great spirit of devotion. Her Sisterhood is strongly marked by her own spiritual character. The great virtues of humility and charity lie at its basis. The love of our Blessed Lord, and the love of the Sisters together in Him mark the character of the Community. It is full of the happiness, brightness, and joy of a united Christian fellowship, and animated with a glowing zeal for souls. The Mother was a great exemplar of the Religious Life, in its spiritual beauty and mystical union with Our Lord. Her Community is the noblest monument of her saintly memory. We may well hope that now she is in yet nearer relation to her Blessed Lord, she will obtain for us who wait some special gifts of grace.
And now we turn to some matters of theological import. Our Church holds a special position in Christendom. If ever the divided portions of it are to be brought together and united in Christian fellowship, it will be largely through the influence of our own Communion. This, as many of you know, was the utterance of the great Roman Catholic writer, Count de Maistre. To affect others, our Church must be true to itself. Let me ask that you will especially remember the coming assembly of the General Convention--that its deliberations may be overruled to the protection of the Christian Faith. It is necessary that our laity especially should be converted, well-instructed churchmen. It is for that latter purpose that I am composing a short treatise on the lineage of our American Catholic Church. It will be published, I expect, in the autumn. And I would gladly distribute copies through the clergy to the laity of our Diocese.
I would here republish my official announcement of some years ago, establishing the six points of Ritual, as they have been called, as the legal observances of our Parishes.
Whenever it appears wise to the Priest in charge, I like to see the Priest at the Sacrifice of the Altar wearing the Eucharistic vestments of amice, alb, girdle, maniple, and chasuble. He ought always, in obedience to the Rubric, to take the Eastward position, which places him "before" in front of the Altar, and "before" or in front of the people, and so being turned to the Altar, that he may take the Elements in his hands. The Altar should be adorned with lights. A gong adds to the solemnity of certain parts of the Service. I will give one to any church if it is desired. Also it has been found, as a matter of reverence and convenience, that wafer bread should be used, and it can be obtained at small cost from the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity. After the ancient custom, and that of the first Celebration, a little water should be mingled with the wine, symbolizing the two Natures of Our Lord.
The symbolical use of incense, especially in the great Festivals, is to be commended, as incense is a symbol of prayer; and applied to persons and things, it teaches the Evangelical truth that nothing is acceptable to God, save through the application of the merits of Christ. More especially would I commend to you all the reverent Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament for the Sick. It is an ancient custom, and found in those early times, to which we, as a Church for our Faith and practice, appeal. Although our Church provides for a Celebration in the homes of the Sick, yet the ill are often found too weak to bear the fatigue of the service, short as it is. The clergyman also cannot be prepared at any time, day and night, to receive the Sacrament himself, which he would have to do if he celebrated. He also should be protected, by bringing the Sacrament, from consuming in the case of contagious diseases. It is thus a matter of common sense that the Priest, by reserving the Sacrament, should be enabled to minister to the sick and the dying.
After a very careful analysis of the Rubric at the end of the Communion Service, I am convinced that its true and legal construction allows of Reservation. And I hereby authoritatively authorize the use of it. A learned lay jurist wrote to me, "I shudder to think of the awful responsibility incurred by those who seek, by a technical construction of the Rubric, to deprive any of the solace of the last Sacraments of the Church in their dying hour."
To the objection that reservation in the tabernacle on the Altar will lead to the practice of devotion to Christ in the Sacrament, it is sufficient to reply that the Church in our Liturgy does not command the priest to consume the Sacred Elements immediately after the Communion of the people, but obliges him to reserve them, and to say exercises of devotion, and to sing the Gloria in Excelsis in their presence. Our Church thus commands reservation for devotional purposes.
If Our Lord, as the cloud received Him out of their sight, lifted up His Hands and blessed the Apostles, we too may look with adoring love to Him, veiled in the Cloud of the Blessed Sacrament. The more we grow in devotion to our Lord thus present, the more will He bless our Diocese, our parishes, our homes, our selves.
In this connection I would commend the practice of receiving the Blessed Sacrament fasting as an act of honor to Our Lord. Our Church expressly exhorts the receiving of holy Baptism fasting, and what applies to one of the great Sacraments is equally applicable to the other. The absence of any explicit command by our branch of the Church in respect to the Holy Eucharist cannot abrogate our duty to conform to the custom of the whole Catholic Church.
And now we turn to some matters of wider import.
Do we realize what the Church is?
The Church is a part of God's original plan in creating. God designed the Universe that now is as a preliminary to the creating of the Church. God did not create the Church to save fallen man, but created man that He might thereby make the Church. The Church is thus the primary purpose, and the ultimate object of the creative activity. It is a spiritual organism. Philosophers have believed in a future state of reward and punishment, but had no conception of the Church as the finally developed, resultful end of creation. Many Christians, in like manner, believing in Heaven, think of it as a place where they may wander about and do as they please, and have little idea of its awful sanctity, and ordered government, as completing the creative purpose. It is not merely a place, but a new state of life, in a final development of creation, as a spiritual organism.
Again: many persons look upon the Church as a mere human institution. It belongs to the same class as other societies, and so there may be many such societies. It is like a kind of fraternal society, similar to that of the Masons, Oddfellows, Knights of Pythias. It is a temporary and earthly society like a political one, or a society having some philanthropic aim. It is simply a man-made association of Christians for religious purposes. It is only to last as long as the world lasts. It is human and only for a time.
Others believing that the Church is a divine Society, because founded on earth by Christ, conceive of it as like unto an earthly Kingdom, and needing a visible head. This also tends to concentrate and confine the view of it to this earth. But the one Church of Christ is in three divisions. It consists of all the Saints in Glory, the vast body in the expectant state, and the few who form the Church Militant on earth. All three together make up the one spiritual organism which is the Church.
We must come to realize the fact that out of their temporary probationary state, God is calling and perfecting souls, who, united to Christ, form a great, grand, spiritual organism. It is not a mere organization. Organizations man can make. Only God can make an organism. An organism is something that has life in itself, and can communicate life. Of this spiritual organism, which is the Church, the God-Man, Jesus Christ, is the Head and the Holy Ghost is its Heart. You may conceive of it as a great sphere, of which Christ is the sun, and as filled with the Holy Ghost as its atmosphere. It is a Temple, in which Christ dwells, and of which, united to Him, we are living stones. The Church is thus a living organism, which has life in itself and can communicate life.
In its final and perfected state, when Christ shall come again in Glory, the Church will rise into a perfected condition, when, and where, all evil and sin will forever cease. All sorrow and sin will be banished. The Saints, having attained the Beatific Vision, will then be kept by the new union with God from sinning, and in blessedness consequently will ever reign.
This spiritual organism, where the creature, endowed with free will, will then be so united in bliss to God, is the final end of creation, and is being evolved out of the present preparatory state, and is the Church. It is the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, which we profess in the Creeds. It is called in Holy Scriptures, "The Bride of Christ." It is the consummated act of Creation. It is an act grand, majestic, precious, worthy of the conception of a God. Another important question to be solved by you is--What is the Rule of Faith?
By the Rule of Faith we mean the rule or test by which every Christian should know what he ought to believe. It is the compass by which we ought to steer. Now there are two opposite theories respecting the Rule. One makes human reason the dominant factor. We are to believe what approves itself to our own judgment. The other takes for its guide reason as enlightened by tradition, and guided by authority. This latter is the Church's Rule of Faith. Let us explain it a little more fully. Its basic thought is that Christ is the completed Revelation of God to man. What He was and did and taught is the whole of it. The Apostles were guided by the Holy Ghost to know this. They delivered it, declaring the whole Counsel of God. It was thus complete in Christ and completely delivered by the Apostles.
Their teaching is recorded in the New Testament, which is the Gospel written, and witnessed by the Holy Sacraments, or the Gospel in action. The Gospel thus delivered came to men, not only as a revelation of truths, but as a spiritual power. It took possession of the faithful receivers, uniting them to Christ by the Holy Spirit. They not only thus believed in Christ, but they came to possess and to know Him. What then the whole united Christian consciousness bears witness to, is a sure evidence of what Christ was, and did, and taught.
This consciousness manifests itself officially through the Ecumenical Councils and the consent of united Christendom. We may listen to the united teaching of the Apostolic Churches, where the Sacraments are preserved, and know with divine certainty that we have the Gospel as revealed in and by Christ.
Guided by this rule, we believe and hold fast to the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, the Deity of Christ, His two Natures and Wills, and the union of these two Natures in one Person.
We believe in the Apostolic Succession, and the three orders of Ministry, in the regenerating power of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, and the Real Objective presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and in the absolving power of the Priest to penitents.
Subordinately to this its great work, our Church stands as a reconciler between science and religion, labor and capital, modern thought and received Faith. Between the ascertained facts of modern scientific discovery, and the Church's dogma, there is no conflict.
We have no such record as Rome has in the condemnation by the Pope of Galileo's discovery of the diurnal motion of the earth as contrary to Holy Scripture. It has never been our teaching that the World was made in six days of twenty-four hours each, nor does the Church condemn the scientific views of man's physical nature as a product of a course of evolution. It only interprets to us the Scripture that God made man from the dust of the earth. Nor does the Church put her ban upon any discoveries higher critics have made in regard to the composition of Holy Scripture. No one accepts the mechanical theory of inspiration which made the writers of Scripture automatic machines. The writers were moved by the Holy Spirit, but the human element is not to be left out of account. There is, as the great teacher Liddon said, "the inspiration of selection as well as of immediate revelation." What we hold is that the great truths and moral teaching revealed in Holy Scripture are not affected by any modern discoveries. The archeo-logical discoveries in Egypt and Babylon have so far been confirmatory of the written Word.
It is also to the Church we must look for a resolution of the struggle between capital and labor. The only solution lies in the application to it of the Golden Rule, and as a practical means of adjustment reference to arbitration. The spirit that would arouse antagonism between the rich and the poor is destructive of good citizenship. Wealth is no barrier to the Kingdom of Heaven, and it is often used in the most noble way on behalf of humanity. Property "is an original result of the terms on which men live together as members of a society." It has its duties, but also its rights, and its rights cannot be violated without the destruction of the social life.
Again: the Church offers the best solution to a supposed antagonism between modern thought and the received Faith. We do not need a new Catholicity, but that Catholic teaching should be better understood. Medieval scholasticism may have to give way to the methods of modern philosophical thought. The old doctrines will therefore find a new and fresh expression, but they will shine out all the more clearly, and be found in conformity with the highest reason and the best thought of mankind.
In the coming conflict between all other religions and Christianity we know Christianity is destined to triumph. And in this work the Anglican Communion has a great mission to perform.
Let us also, dear Brethren, thankfully record the providential care of God manifested during the last three centuries over the Anglican Communion. The Reformation was a necessity. It could not be accomplished without some losses, though it brought great blessings. Our Church was at this critical time preserved from Calvinism and Puritanism on the one hand, and Rome on the other. The early providential death of King Edward VI preserved the Church from Calvinistic Protestantism, and the destruction of the Spanish Armada delivered England from the Roman rule.
Cromwell sought the destruction of the Anglican Church, but the Puritan persecution failed at the restoration of the Monarchy. The cold, dull eighteenth century succeeded, and the Church's doctrine and worship fell into decadence. But the loving Providence of God in the last century raised up the earnest evangelicals and subsequently the great teachers like Pusey and Keble, who revived the Church. She rose, as Liddon said, "Like a giant refreshed with wine." Again the doctrines embodied in the Prayer Book were emphatically put forth. The Holy Sacrifice was restored to her Altars, and devout souls came to her confessionals. The Religious Life arose in its beauty and strength, she put on again her beautiful garments, and her restored worship proclaimed to the World the fact that she was part of the Ancient Holy Catholic Church.
We are the inheritors of a great cause. Perhaps since the days of Pentecost there has never been so deep a spiritual movement in the Church of Christ. We clergy should make known the lives of our saintly leaders to our people and interest them in the great Revival. We need especially to cultivate an internal unity among ourselves. We must draw together as members of one body. We must make the Church's interests, as being those of Christ, of the first importance with us. We must seek for a greater development of personal religion. We need to be truly converted Christians and well-instructed Churchmen. I pray God a missionary spirit may take possession of our Diocese. We have received a great trust, and must sacredly guard it and hand it on. Do we think, as much as we ought, of what it cost our spiritual forefathers to preserve to us our Book of Common Prayer? It cost labor, struggles, suffering, and martyrdom. The book comes to us stained with the tears and the blood of those who have gone before. It should be as dear to us as the flag is to the loyal soldier, and we should make it our duty to make it known to others. Loyalty to our own Church is consistent with charity to all Christians. We should best help them in the cause of unity by being faithful to what we have received. Our Church founded by Christ at Pentecost has come down to us with Apostolic authority and voices the Faith of the Universal Church. Let us consecrate ourselves anew this day to the Master's service, and with greater devotion and zeal work for the Church for which He gave His Precious Blood.