Project Canterbury






Rt. Rev. George Augustus Selwyn, D.D., D.C.L.







Rt. Rev. William Bell White Howe, D.D.





St. Paul's Church, Baltimore, Md.

OCTOBER 8TH, A.D., 1871.





"The Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all."--Ephesians, i. 22-23.

THE nature of God is revealed to us in Holy Scripture in language which cannot be read attentively without wonder and awe. God is described as the High and Holy One that inhabiteth eternity; the King eternal, immortal, invisible; the blessed and only Potentate; the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen nor can see; the Maker of all things that are in Heaven and Earth; the God whom the Heaven and the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain.

The substance of man's natural thoughts of God is summed up in those words of the Apostle: that "God dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen nor can see."

It seems, then, that in all ages of the world, however dark, the belief in the spiritual nature of God was never wholly lost, and that the idolatry which seemed to deny it did really recognise the same general belief. Idols were signs or mediators between gods [5/6] and men; and the multiplicity of gods having various attributes and functions was the corruption of the belief of the One God who filleth all in all, who has said of Himself, "Do not I fill heaven and earth?"

To us who have received from God Himself the revelation of His nature in His own written word, the duty is plain to guard with the most jealous care against any approach to idolatry. We must always remember that the Lord our God is a jealous God. Neither temples, nor images, nor altars, nor pictures, nor music, nor forms of worship, nor any other thing which can be seen, or touched, or heard, must be allowed to turn away our thoughts from that God whom no man hath seen nor can see; that God who is a Spirit, and who must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. Whatever signs there may be between God and man, the essence of true religion is in the direct communion between the heart of man and the Spirit of God. This is the truth declared so plainly by our Lord Himself to the woman of Samaria, which has been wonderfully revived in these last years; and God grant that we may all he duly thankful for this increase of the pure and spiritual religion of the heart. But this jealousy for the spiritual worship of God must not blind us to the infirmities of our own nature, nor make us forgetful of the positive commandments of God.

The first and most natural thought of man's heart is to fear a God invisible. Whenever we are conscious of God's presence, then we feel, "How dreadful is this place!" Spiritual religion would undo its own work if it taught us to break down the [6/7] fences, to deny the Mediator, or to abolish the signs which God in His wisdom has appointed between Himself and us. Spiritual religion would contradict itself if it were to say: "Is not my God a God of love? is He not my Father? why may I not rush at once into His presence?" The bounds are still set upon the Mount; the Lord still speaks to us through a Mediator. "Charge the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish." Jesus Christ still speaks to us: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me."

The humble heart at once accepts the Mediator. Thankfully it answers to its Lord: "Speak Thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us lest we die." The heart that knows its own sinfulness, feels at once that without holiness no man can see God; and therefore it accepts the mediation of the Holy Son of God. The heart that trembles in God's presence, feels its need of "an High Priest who can he touched with a feeling of its infirmities." We cannot come boldly to the throne of grace until we are assured of His effectual mediation. But why are we so assured? Because we know that the Mediator Himself is sure. He is not a Mediator like Moses; for even Moses quaked and feared exceedingly in the presence of God, upon Mount Sinai. But our Mediator is at God's right hand, where He ever liveth to make intercession for us. He is the brightness of His Father's glory, and the express image of His person. "It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell." And that fulness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily. In Him is the [7/8] fulness of God, and the fulness of man's nature. He is perfect God and perfect man; and therefore He is a perfect Mediator. All that God can do, Christ can do; and all that man can feel, Christ can feel. One only difference is seen between the Son of Man and us: that He alone is without sin; He alone "is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." And yet "God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."

There may be those who would break through to come to God without the mediation of Christ. They may persuade themselves that their worship of the God invisible is more pure and spiritual than if they saw God dimly in the glass of that man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, who was in all points tempted like as we are. But by leaving the way which God has opened, and denying the truth which God has revealed, they forfeit the life which God has promised. Their proud religion has no life in it; no hope for the life that is to come. They seek for spiritual communion with a God invisible by the denial of the Mediator between God and man. Their pride of reason ends in idolatry of themselves.

The fulness of God, we have seen, can only be received through the fulness of Christ. This was the Father's will at the creation, that when He made the worlds He should make them through His Son. This is His will also in redemption, that when He saves mankind He will save them through His Son. If God Himself then be pleased to work through a Mediator, how can we say that spiritual religion requires that we should break [8/9] through all bounds and reject all means that we may come direct to God?

We see then how mediation is entirely distinct from everything like idolatry. When we look upon the incarnate Son of God, and see Him in His various forms, whether of suffering or of glorified humanity; when we see Him wearing the purple robe and bleeding with the scourges and the crown of thorns, and hear the voice of Pilate, "Behold the man!" or when we see Him clothed in raiment white as the light, with His face shining as the sun, and hear the voice from heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased"--we draw near to wonder and. to adore; but not because either of those forms is the likeness of the invisible God, but because the Being who so suffers and is so glorified is both God and man. True it is that He that hath seen Christ hath seen the Father, for the Father and the Son are one. But they who saw the likeness of the Son of Man, saw not the invisible God. The human form of Christ is no idol of His Divine glory. The two natures are essentially distinct: each perfect of its kind, the perfect man and the perfect God. But the perfection of Christ's manhood could not represent that glory and majesty of the Godhead which even the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain; and yet that perfect manhood, by suffering, dying, and rising from the dead, has opened the way by which sinful man, changed into the likeness of Christ's glorious body, shall be admitted, even in his flesh, to see God.

II. From the one Mediator we pass to the means. And means there are, ordained by Christ himself as Christ is a Mediator [9/10] ordained by God. The means ordained by Christ are summed up in the one word "His Church," meaning everything that belongs to the Lord: including the Bible as the Lord's Word; this day, as the Lord's Day; this building, as the Lord's house; this worship, as the Lord's service; these Sacraments, as the Lord's covenant; ourselves, as the Lord's ministers; this congregation, as the Lord's people. And St. Paul teaches us in the words of the text that the Church is the body of Christ, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. We have seen that Christ is the fulness of God: we see now that the Church is the fulness of Christ. The Lord's people are the people that are full of Christ; the Bible is the book that is full of Christ; the Lord's Day is the day which is full of Christ; the Church is the house which is full of Christ; these prayers, these sacraments, all are full of Christ. The ministry is nothing if it be not full of Christ. The Church which is made up of all these parts is thus the fulness of Christ; and that fulness is all-sufficient: it is the fulness of Him that filleth all in all; it is a perfect stewardship of a perfect household. Every child and every servant in that house has bread enough and to spare. Distribution is made to every man according as he has need. Christ first blesses and multiplies the bread, then the Church distributes it; and this appointment of the Church as a means of grace is as clear as the appointment of Christ Himself to be the Mediator between God and man. Yet some say when the Church is mentioned, that the Church is put in the place of Christ. Can man put asunder what God has joined: can we separate Christ from His bride, the Church: can we sever the [10/11] body from the head, the branch from the root, the superstructure fro the foundation? As it pleased the Father that in Christ should all fulness dwell, so it pleased the Son to give His own fulness to His Church. The promise was, that of His fulness should we all receive; and the ministrations of His Holy Church are the appointed channels through which that fulness was to be received. The Lord adds to the Church daily such as are being saved. The office of the Church is to make known to the world the manifold wisdom of God. (Ephesians, iii. 10.)

Nothing is more right or laudable than jealousy for the purity of religion or for the glory of God. But it must be a discriminating jealousy, lest while it burns up the tares it burns up with them the wheat also. The faithful watch-dog does not bark at the children of the house, or at the master's familiar friend. The faithful sentinel knows how to distinguish between friend and foe. When Christ overturned the seats of those who sold doves, He did not condemn His mother for offering up in the same temple a pair of young pigeons.

If any one is ready to take offence at the cross in the ground-plan or on the spires of our churches, he must find fault with the firmament itself, for there also is the sign of the Cross; and many there are and ever will be in that Southern hemisphere where I have long lived, who without a single thought of worshipping that starry cross, or putting it in the place of Christ, will rejoice to see it shining there, in the midst of the darkness of the starless Southern pole, as an emblem of the true light that shone in the midst of darkness from the Cross on Calvary, a light to lighten every man that cometh into the world.

[12] No; we will no more be ashamed of the Church of Christ than we will be ashamed of Christ Himself. If there be times when the Church has been darkened by superstition, if those times be not even now past, is it not the same with Christ Himself? Can we be silent of the name of Christ because some men deny His Godhead? So neither will we shrink from setting the Church upon a hill, because Scribes and Pharisees trusted in themselves that they were righteous. So neither will we suppress the Word of God, because some men wrest it to their own destruction. So neither will we give up our Form of Common Prayer, because some may use it only as a form. So neither will we doubt the necessity of Sacraments, because some are so ignorant as to trust to the outward act. We look not to that which is below, hut to that which is above: not to the corruption of that which is good, but the fulness of the Divine love from which the good proceeds. If we are told to bring our children to baptism, or to come ourselves to the Lord's Supper, we must not plead that we have seen baptized children grow up into ungodly men, or that we have known communicants who have lived unholy lives.

The Word of God, the Sacraments ordained by Christ Him self, every ordinance of prayer and praise, the ministry of the Church--all may suffer corruption, all may be perverted to evil the spirit of religion may l)e lost sight of in the form; the outward sign may usurp the place of the thing signified; visible things may withdraw the mind from the thought of the God eternal, immortal and invisible; the Lord's Day may be made a day of rioting; all holy things may seem to fall into decay, as [12/13] man himself, the image of God, fell: but to neglect God's gifts because of man's abuse of them; to set aside God's commandments because of man's disobedience; to doubt God's promises because of man's rejection of them,--this is not the way to attain to pure and spiritual religion of the heart. We must wait for God in the way of His commandments.

We have assembled to-day for a solemn act, in which we must all unite, for the work belongs, not to the Bishops only, but to us all. We are met to consecrate an assistant Bishop to help that venerable man whom God has been pleased to deprive of the light of day. Our prayers will be offered up for both: for the one, that so much the more may the true light shine inwardly, and that he be enabled to look up to heaven, and by faith to see the glory that shall be revealed; for the other, that he may be literally and spiritually "eyes to the blind" (Job xxix: 25.) We pray for the one who is now to be consecrated, that he may be so blessed with the outpouring of the Holy Ghost that he may be a faithful steward of the mysteries of Christ, that he may so faithfully feed the flock committed to his charge that when the Chief Shepherd shall appear he may be partaker of his Master's joy, that of those whom God had given him he had lost none.

We know that God only is all in all; that it has pleased the Father that His own fulness shall dwell in Christ. We believe that Christ has ordained His Church to be His own body, and given to it His own fulness; that this fulness of spiritual gifts is dispensed through various channels, each having its own peculiar blessing, though all flowing from one fountain.

[14] The fulness of Christ is like the rain which falls from heaven upon the Ethiopian hills; the Church is like the Nile which collects the waters from heaven; the various ordinances of grace, the consecration of Bishops, the ordination of Priests and Deacons, the two holy sacraments, confirmation, public worship, private and family prayer, the Bible, the Lord's day, are like the rivulets, some made by God and some dug by man, through which the over- flowing waters are conducted to every field and homestead. These last must be the subjects of our special care: for the main river can never be choked; but each man's own neglect may cause his own watered garden to return to its former state of barrenness.

We pray for our dear brother, that he may receive of the fulness of Christ, and grace for grace; grace preventing, grace following, grace to will and grace to do: and that none of these gifts of grace may be received in vain. We pray that every child which he may baptize, may lead the rest of his life according to that beginning. We pray that every one whom he receives at the Lord's Supper may be a real partaker of the body and blood of Christ. We pray that every youth whom he confirms, may be truly sealed as the child of God. We pray that every marriage which he solemnizes, may be a true type of the spiritual marriage betwixt Christ and His Church. We pray that the Word of God, whether read or preached by him, may have such effect that it may never be spoken in vain. We pray that all his prayers may be made effectual by the prevailing intercession of Him in whom all fulness dwells. We pray that every Synod at which he presides may be blessed with the spirit of counsel, peace, and love. We [14/15] pray that all those whom he ordains, may be faithful and able members of Christ's Holy Word and Sacraments. We pray that the God whom the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain, may be present with him and every church which he consecrates, and make that place to be the house of God and the gate of heaven.

Lastly, we pray that from his Diocese, as from a fountain of living water, a stream, fed with the fulness of the love of God, will flow forth into the regions beyond, into the thirsty wilderness, where the lonely shepherd feeds his flock; to every valley and every hill where the new settler may pitch his tent; to every island on the surface of the ocean, where the heathen still worships his idols of wood and stone, or trembles for fear of malignant spirits. We pray that God may be made known to all in the fulness of His love; that all may receive of the fulness of Christ; that all may be received into the fulness of His Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.

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