THIS is our Lord's own logic. Christ, Who freely gave Himself for us and for our salvation, thus states the argument for Christian effort for the good of others. He, who came into the world to seek and to save the lost, was sending forth the Twelve on their first evangelistic journey, and the words of their Instruction are far-reaching, and inclusive of all later labours for the spread of the glad tidings. In these words Christ reasons that the possession of knowledge brings with it the obligation to impart that knowledge; that the having of wealth is inseparably linked with the duty of freely dispensing of our abundance; and that the reception of any gift from God is to be to us an argument, not for our selfish enjoyment thereof, but for a generous, unselfish sharing of its benefits with all about us. First addressed to the disciples sent forth with the bidding-- "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils," the Master's instructions come down to us. Christ, standing in the midst of His followers, is crying not alone to Peter, James and John, but all who have received the abundance of His mercy and shared the riches of His love; and His words --"Freely ye have received, freely give. Heal the souls sick with transgression; cleanse the leprous with guilt: raise the dead in trespasses and cast out the foul spirits nestling in unregenerate breasts. Bring the Great Physician near to all in need. Free and full have been God's gifts to you; freely impart to others less favoured than yourselves!"
Freely have we received! If we but stop to count up our mercies--the individual blessings, the social privileges, the national gifts that are ours, we must confess that the lines are fallen to us in pleasant places, and that we have a goodly heritage, when to all these blessings, we add the unspeakable gift of Him, Whose life is our example, and by Whose death we live eternally; when we remember the Church, which is His body; the Sacraments by which we are united to Him; when we recall the means of grace and the hope of glory which are ours, can we deny the truth of these words of Christ in the application to ourselves?--
"Largely Thou givest, gracious Lord,
Largely Thy gifts should be restored;
Freely Thou givest, and Thy word
Is 'Freely give.'
He only who forgets to hoard
Has learned to live."
It is thus that the argument comes home to us to-day. We have the Word and Church of God. Nothing is wanting to reveal to us the will and ways of our Maker. We sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, while others of our fellow-men are in darkness and the shadow of death. Marked is the contrast of our privileges with their needs. Their ears have never heard--their lips have never lisped the sacred Name of Him Who was called Jesus, that He might save His people from their sins. In their homes no Bible is read by the hearth-stone; their communities know not the restraints of gentle, loving Christianity. They do not--they cannot believe in Him of Whom they have not heard. Nor need we thus to wander to the ends of the earth or the islands of the sea for contrasts such as these. Have we not in our cities and towns, beneath the shadow of our Christian Homes--our Christian Churches-- childhood unconsecrated to God; youth mature in sin and shame; manhood and womanhood lost to purity, probity, and all that lifts us above the brute; age wretched in its memories of this life, and hopeless in its anticipations of one to come? Surely, at the contrasts these scenes of earth, unblessed, unillumined by the light of Him who is the light and life of the world, present with our Christian homes, our spiritual gifts, our hopes of the life to come, there cannot fail to sound clearly, convincingly in our ears Christ's words--the irresistible logic of our Lord, which is more than argument, for it is a command as well--"Freely ye have received, freely give."
These words bring to us an admonition, as well as an argument and a command. The annals of the Church's history affords a striking comment on this bidding of Christ. The recognition of their duty to disseminate the gifts of God which they had received was the impelling cause leading S. Paul to seek to impart his spiritual gifts everywhere among the Gentiles, and St. Peter to minister to the Jews spread all over the world. In this spirit the very earth was compassed by the Twelve and the converts they made. Nations the most widely separated, lands the most forbidding and remote were visited and subdued for Christ by those who felt that much, indeed, had bee given them, and that of them much would be required. Each one whose heart had been touched by the constraining love of Christ, felt that the offering of means, the labour, of a life--the life itself, were a due for this inestimable benefit. Every member of the Church of Christ from the moment of his baptism became enlisted in this aggressive work for his Lord. The legionary once enrolled on the side of Christ sought the conversion of his fellow soldiers in camp or in the field. The slave, finding the liberty wherewith Christ had made him free, sought the redemption of another thrall of sin and Satan. The courtier proclaimed the King of Kings and Lord of Lords even in Caesar's household. All this was done til there was no province so distant, no tribe so fierce, no race so uncultivated, no mountain range so impenetrable, no river so swiftly-flowing, as to hinder the preaching of the Crucified by men feeling the obligation of Christ's words resting upon them in resistless force.
Alas! that there should have been a relaxation of effort, a forgetfulness of the argument and bidding of our Lord ! But note, the corruption of the Church in doctrine and this withholding of aggressive work are found linked together as cause and effect. It was only when faith and love had chilled, that the progress of the Church of Christ was checked. Shall we not be warned by this? The full and free imparting of our spiritual privileges to others is Christ's measure of the Church's purity in doctrine, and of the depth of her faith and love!
We feel and recognize this obligation--The Church of England, at once Catholic and reformed, could not content herself with the selfish enjoyment of the privileges she had secured in her return to primitive faith and practice at the period of the Reformation, and the records of her history show an earnest effort from, the first to act in the spirit of the words of our text. That Great Communion from which in mediaeval days the Apostle of Germany had gone forth to Apostolic labours and Apostolic success, and which in this present age has its martyred and living Apostles to recount to the glory of God, has never been forgetful of its obligation to impart of its abundance of spiritual gifts. The simple fact that ere the beginning of the present century, which we are so apt to consider as pre-eminently the age of missionary and aggressive work, nearly two thousand clergymen of Anglican Orders laboured for Christ in the colonies and settlements in America alone, then in the present sense missionary ground, proves that the Church of England was not unmindful of her duty to the souls of men. Nor is this instance alone: whether in prosperous or adverse days there were untiring efforts on the part of her members for the good of others. Whence came those masterly treatises on polemics, which in their reproduction in various forms and tongues by the excellent Anglo-Continental Society, in whose behalf I would speak to day, are still influencing and controlling modern theological thought and inquiry on the Continent, in the East, even in the West--save from the desire to bring to other lands and peoples the privileges so highly valued here? It was not merely to defend the practice and position of their National Church that Jewell, Andrewes, Beveridge, Cosin and Bull prepared the treatises found so serviceable by the Anglo-Continental Society, in spreading abroad upon the Continent and elsewhere, among Orientals and members of the Church of Rome, the principles and knowledge of the English Church. It was to induce others to share these privileges, and to secure for themselves the primitive faith and order, that these men wrote. As in the first years of the faith, the "Apology" becomes persuasive, conviction follows the removal of prejudice and misconception; and the world to day is reaping the harvest sown in faith by these far seeing men centuries ago.
Lacking though it must, much of the romance and interest attaching to the aggressive work of the Church abroad, or even among the masses at home, the department of Christian effort undertaken by the Anglo-Continental Society is still in every sense a work of missions. The objects ever kept in view, as tersely stated in the Constitution of this Society, are these:
"1. To make the principles of the English Church known in the different countries and throughout the world.
2. To help forward the Internal Reformation of National Churches and other religious communities, by spreading information within them, rather than by proselytising from them.
3. To save men, whose religious convictions are already unsettled, from drifting into infidelity, by exhibiting to them a purified Christianity which they may be able to embrace."
Is not this the truest and most comprehensive missionary work? The diffusion of the truth, the attempt to bring about in the most healthy and promising manner the reform of that which is corrupt, and a return to that which is primitive and true, and the direct persistent effort, by the presentation of a pure and attractive faith, to rescue those who are lapsing info unbelief; surely this is a work commending itself to every member of the Church of Christ.
The written or the printed page has again and again moved the nations. The importance of the publication in various languages, and the wide dissemination, of works illustrating the truth as held and taught by the Church of England cannot be over estimated. As of old, the gift of "goodly words" shall be as "a hind let loose." The fact that these books and treatises are not so much for the popular mind as for the thinking class is no objection. In teaching the teachers of the people their influence will be continually reproduced.
Most strikingly have the hopes of the founders of this Society been realized! Twenty years have passed, and that which at the outset seemed so improbable has become part of the history of the age. During this score of years, the work of making known on the Continent and in the East the principles of the English Church has been quietly arid successfully going on. Both by the dissemination of judicious selections of the works of the most famous Doctors of the Church of England, together with our Book of Common Prayer, and by the use of living agents, whose duty it was to enlighten and inform the minds of those within the Church of Rome that were alive to the need of reformation, the active efforts of this Society have extended year by year. With no less zeal and on principles identical with those adopted by the Anglo-Continental Society, the Church in America has prosecuted a similar work. Shall we not then recognize in all this effort to impart from our abundance the working of the hand of God? when at the very moment that the Papacy, as if in anticipation of its loss of temporal power, proclaimed the dogma of Infallibility, there arose within the Roman Communion the Old Catholic Movement, which, not by might, nor by power, but by God's Spirit, seems destined to effect that which no assault from without could ever hope to bring about.
Five years have nearly passed since the publication by the celebrated von Dollinger of the "Declaration" which may be considered as marking the birth of the Old Catholic reform. These years have not passed without a drawing together of the leaders in this movement, and Bishops and members of the Anglican Communion. With eyes touched indeed by Him who is the light of the world, the vision was not clear at first. They saw, like him of old, "men as trees walking" but the sight strengthened, the films of error passed, and as we, loyal members of the Catholic and reformed Anglican Communion, review the results of this movement, which are no longer problematical but are living facts, patent to all men, we may well cry out, What hath God wrought! The principles of the English reformation are fully and heartily vindicated by men whose standing in the Church of Rome had been unquestioned till they had been driven by conviction from her pale. Nor is this all. With this recognition there has come a following of our course; or rather, working from the same data they have arrived at similar results. It is not merely with Roman Catholics impatient of the new dogma that we have to do in this Old Catholic Movement, though it certainly ought to move our sympathy and excite our interest, that even this stand should be taken against the Vatican decrees. It is with men occupying a position like our own that we are brought into connexion--Members of the Catholic Church, no longer Romanists; men gladly giving to those under their spiritual care the word of God and the words of worship, in the tongue understanded by the people; men holding the great truth that faith working by love is the means and condition of man's justification before God; men rejecting the Romish notion of merit; men denying the dogma of the Immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary; men repudiating compulsory confession; men holding that view of the Eucharist which is maintained by the great Doctors of the English Church; men in short appealing to the Word of God and to primitive antiquity, both in their writings and in their practice. Can we close our eyes to the reality, the importance, the spirituality of a movement Midi as this? Are not these Old Catholic Reformers, to quote the words of Dr Von Dollinger to the devoted Secretary of the Anglo-Continental Society in 1871, "walking in parallel lines, if not in the same path" with ourselves? Can we doubt the position of these men, who have, to use their leader's emphatic words, "washed their hands" of the Romish doctrine of Purgatory and Indulgences; and whose course of reform has been each day leading them nearer and nearer, even in comparatively less important things, to the principles of our own Communion.
In a time like this, when the struggle with Vaticanism is spreading all over Christendom, when the daily press is forced to take cognizance of ecclesiastical matters as entering into the world's politics on every side, when to the earnest words of one of the most gifted Statesmen of England, sounding the note of warning against the present policy of the Church of Rome, there come from across the waters the weighty utterances of the Chief Magistrate of the American republic echoing the same truth; when the struggle, no longer a dream, but already a portentous reality, has openly begun on the Continent, and in the new world as well; when it may be that the issue of that conflict shall, for a time at least, seem doubtful, and the Son of Man coming shall not find faith on the earth,--Ah! brethren, we may well recognize in a movement such as this that which should enlist our sympathies, our prayers, our hearty co-operation and our timely aid.
No one could have been present at the recent Conference at Bonn without being profoundly impressed with the importance of this movement, and the deep earnestness and enthusiasm as well as the piety and spirituality of its leaders. Of itself alone considered there was a certain grandeur in the gathering together of Bishops, Priests and Laymen, representing the various divisions of Christendom, to discuss, not plans of organic union, but questions of the gravest moment, which had separated the East from the West for a thousand years. It was not strictly speaking a representative body, though largely composed of representative men. From the East the venerable Archbishop of Syros, with two Roumanian Bishops and a score of Archpriests, Archimandrites, Professors of Theology, and other dignitaries, together with several influential Laymen, were in attendance, drawn thither simply by their desire for a fuller realization of our Lord's High-Priestly Prayer for the unity of His followers, and manifesting throughout the sessions of the Conference an intellectual vigor, a generous forbearance and a large hearted charity, winning every heart and deserving the highest praise. From the West there were the leading divines of the Old Catholic Church, with their devout Bishop Reinkens, and their distinguished Theologian von Dollinger at their head. A wise and prudent Bishop of the Anglican Communion, with a number of English theologians were also present, and there was nothing lacking to make the moral influence of this Conference felt throughout the various Communions of Christendom. I need not give in detail the themes discussed, nor repeat the results arrived at after most full and free and loving debate. That an agreement should have been attained on the grave question of the Procession of the Holy Ghost, which had divided the East from the West for a thousand years, is sufficient proof that the Old Catholic Movement, without which, humanly speaking, this meeting of Eastern and Western theologians would have been impossible, has not been without results. The removal of misconceptions, the clearing up of misrepresentations, and the substantial accord of theologians of the East and the West, on a matter so momentous, even though the Conference claimed no conciliar authority or power, is a step towards unity, the importance of which cannot be over estimated. And when to this great result we add the clear and emphatic testimony borne by the excellent Bishop Reinkens and the learned von Dollinger, in their meetings with the Orientals, to the validity of Anglican Orders, which the Easterns had been taught by Romish authorities to question, we can see at once that in the vindication of our own Church's position before the Christian world something has been gained, without which our efforts to impart of our spiritual gifts to these distant brethren in Christ would have been quite in vain.
To conclude, the words of our Lord, in their application to all classes of aggressive Christian effort, should lead us to show our earnest sympathy in the work of these brave men, who are rejecting the Papal, but retaining the Catholic element in their work of reform. We have no right to require them to become Anglicans. They may in some respects fall short of our ideas as to the thoroughness of their rejection of Romish peculiarities. Still they are entitled to our loving sympathy, and, above all, to a charitable judgment. If we stand aloof from them, when our points of agreement are so many and so important, because they do not see eye to eye with us in matters of confessedly less moment, may we not be preventing the possibility of a more perfect accord in the future? Shall we not the more readily secure the end desired by love and a generous charity, and a kindly appreciation of the peculiar circumstances of their position? I know full well the interest felt across the waters by the Church in America in this movement. With us the problems as yet unsolved on this side of the world are already claiming our most thoughtful and anxious consideration. We see in this Old Catholic movement the promise of a Reformation, second only to that mighty work out of which our Mother Church came purified as by fire. On our shores all nationalities meet and commingle. Gratefully do we recognise the agencies for spreading among them the knowledge of our Primitive and Apostolic Church afforded us through the learned and convincing treatises of the English theologians. We look forward to a work of reform on principles similar to that of the Old Catholic movement, in Mexico, where it has actually begun; in South America, where the conflicts of the ecclesiastical and civil powers are, undoubtedly, the precursors of a similar effort; and among the Romanists of our own land, many of whom retain but a slight hold upon the Church of their birth and education. To every effort of this nature we would give our sympathies and aid. To the East and West would we extend the hand of fellowship, on the basis of the Word of God and the teaching of the Primitive and undivided Church. We need the union of all who love the Lord Jesus Christ. The great divisions of Christendom are a stumbling block to those without. We cannot fully impart to others of our spiritual gifts, as our Lord would have us do, till Christendom is more "at unity in itself." In the Spirit of our Master we hail the signs of the coining together of long-separated divisions of the followers of Christ. Shall we not then, who have freely received, freely give both love and labor to bring about so happy a result;--spreading far and wide the knowledge of the truth; imparting of our abundance for the-supply of all who need; seeking in every way to "do good and to communicate;" sowing "beside all waters;" and looking for the Recognition and reward of our faithful, loving work in the Master's approval--"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me."