OF THE DIOCESE OF NORTHERN NEW JERSEY.
THESE words are part of a passage in which St. Paul sets forth his idea of a faithful Ministry. In speaking of the Ministry on this occasion, I wish to be understood as referring to the Threefold Ministry, and what I shall say will apply to the highest order, just in proportion as it ranks the lower. When the Apostle speaks of giving no offence in anything, so that the Ministry be not blamed, his first and obvious purpose is to point out the restraints which, in matters indifferent, the Ministry ought of its own free will to impose upon its rightful liberty; so that even the weaker and less reasonable brethren shall have no ground for blaming it. On this occasion it may be of use to open out into somewhat more general relations, the idea which the Apostle expressed in the words which I have cited.
In these days the Ministry is blamed for giving offence, not so much to the weaker brethren by the undue use of its liberty in matters indifferent, as to a multitude within, and more especially without the Church, by its alleged failure to fill out the ideal of what it ought to be [3/4] and to do. If the Ministry may be praised for its virtues, it must expect to be arraigned for its faults. It claims the highest order of power and consecration, and it ought to attain the highest measure of usefulness. By none can it be more severely judged than by Him who gave it being.
Great attention is given to religion in these days, not so much with a view to accepting its truth as to detecting its short-comings. Men argue on theology, but they do so to prove that we would be better off without it. They discuss creeds, but chiefly to show that they are out of place in this age of free thought. They are deeply interested in the study of Christianity as a whole, but very largely only to prove that it imposes a kind of harness which the world has worn long enough. The Ministry is handled in quite the same spirit. Now criticism undertaken in this temper and for this purpose, will not be careful to guard against exaggeration, or to give due weight to qualifying circumstances. On the other hand, the clergy, smarting under allegations which they believe to be unjust, will not be inclined to admit faults which really lie at their door. It is a fact that the Ministry is blamed, and it would be strange if there were not some reason for it. Let us see for what it is blamed, and then inquire how far it is blamed justly.
(1) It is blamed because it has allowed the average power and influence of the pulpit to decline.
(2) It is blamed because it is lacking in self-sacrifice and readiness to endure hardship.
 (3) It is blamed for its want of boldness and independence in thought and action.
(4) It is blamed because it has allowed the boundaries which ought to separate the Church from the world to bleach out, and compromises of principle and practice to organize themselves within the Body of Christ.
(5) It is blamed because of its inefficiency and shallowness in the cure of souls.
(6) It is blamed for want of enterprise, and for its feeble talent for organization.
Now there are some who dispose of the whole subject by saying that every count in the indictment bears the sign manual of an enemy. The priests of God, say they, have always been more or less victims to unruly tongues. To be misrepresented, depreciated and maligned, is only part of the treatment which the. Master predicted would be their lot in every generation. This would be answer enough were we without fault. But it is idle to put on the air of martyrs without the deeds of martyrs. As things are it is far wiser to face the charges and to sift them, candidly confessing what is true, repudiating what is false, explaining what is misunderstood; meanwhile making the needful discount for the hostility of unbelief and the instinctive unfairness of the worldly mind, and often the ignorance and want of sympathy among the people of God.
But if we are to be put upon our trial, it will not be amiss to attempt to soften our judges somewhat by reminding them of certain things which ought to extenuate our faults and to mitigate our sentence. We say to [5/6] them, then, first, we are men of like passions with yourselves. Human nature is older than office. The weaknesses of the one are bound up with the gifts of the other. Mighty is the grace of ordination, but it is not mighty enough to supplant the liability to sin and error. God knew that He had earthen vessels to deal with when He committed to them the holy treasure. To an extent, indeed not true of others, the priests' lips must keep knowledge; and clean must be their hands who handle the bread of life. It is required of them, as of no others, that they be ensamples to the flock in all things pertaining to godliness, and hence that they live by a higher rule than others. What is lawful may not be expedient. They may not do unblamed what others may do without fault. Still the taint of imperfection and infirmity is never absent. They have enemies to fight, temptations to overcome peculiar to their vocation. There is the depressing influence of habitual contact with the loftiest tests of duty and the equally habitual consciousness of failure to satisfy them. There is the dulled edge of sensibility produced by constant familiarity with holy things, just as the sun's outline, so definite to the glancing eye, is blurred and hazy to the steady gaze. Not seldom what seem to those without, the special advantages of the priest for pure living and high thinking, are, amid the play and counterplay of life's forces, hindrances to such aims. And then how the sublimity and the mystery of the supernatural impinge on nature, crushing and driving-back on themselves the mind that would soar and the heart that would lose itself in the divine and eternal.
 Again, who knows what and how much is done by the Clergy? The world judges by what it sees and hears. The average lay mind can have an opinion on preaching, whether it be simple or obscure, pungent or dull, fresh or commonplace; and also in regard to the manner of rendering the services and to the ordinary round of pastoral duty. But there is a world behind all this of which the general eye sees nothing. How often the secret burdens of shrinking souls are laid upon the priest of God. How often lives veiled to others are open to him--lives full of unrest and sorrow--lives plunged in the humiliation and grief of conscious guilt, or lives struggling up into the light of the Saviour's face from out the darkness and bondage of evil habits, which clasp the soul as with hooks of steel--disappointed, stranded lives, with whom the world is a failure and heaven yet a dream--young lives, scalded with hot tears over the first lapse and the first shame--old lives, hard and stiff with years of selfish indulgence and covetous greed, or still rocked to and fro on the ground-swell of passions of which nothing remains but their wickedness, and yet lives not unvisited by anxious intimations of an immortality which to be blessed must be washed in the blood of the Lamb.
And then that dreadful, silent ghost of unperformed work that crowds and chides us in the busiest hours, bringing with it the painful sense that when we have done our best, we have but half done our duty. A busy pastorate is well nigh the busiest life a man can live. The hours are too fugitive, the days are too short to [7/8] compass its tasks. There are many useful, many good things, many friends and many books, many of the wholesome amenities of social life for which there is no time; and yet without which the Clergy are rated as ungenial, uncultured, and poorly furnished; and then not seldom there is the hard, stubborn presence of poverty, grinding sensitive natures to powder in its pitiless grasp. Fault such men for not keeping pace with the progress of learning, for lack of literary enterprise and of the tastes of the scientist, or of the ready knowledge and the nimble gifts of cultured leisure! Why as well fault them for growing gray, or blind, or halt before their time. All this, I know, is no sufficient reply to the indictment which we are called to answer; but it should serve to arrest somewhat the gathering tide of censure and disparagement. Let us now take up in their order the counts on which the Ministry is arraigned.
(1) It is blamed for the declining power of the pulpit--for the dearth of great preachers. But I ask, is there any such decline, any such dearth? For one I doubt it. I know the critics and the secular press say there is. They would not be true to their vocation if they said otherwise. Our modern life has pushed to the front agencies for moving public opinion which, whatever their merit, are not over-modest in rating their own power or in challenging comparison with the pulpit. It may be that our preaching is as strong as it ever was, and yet not seem so, because thrown into competition with more pretentious methods for shaping popular sentiment. The press, for example, speaks seven days, the [8/9] pulpit ordinarily but one day in the week. The press is excluded from no topic which it chooses to handle. The pulpit is confined to one. The press is secular, or religious as it pleases. The pulpit is religious, or it is nothing. The press is everywhere. The pulpit is only where Christian benevolence plants it. The press addresses all classes. The pulpit only those who consent to listen. The press touches all life, and with a freedom allowed to nothing else. The pulpit touches life only as it can be affected by the Gospel of Christ, and then only with such freedom as the average sentiment will endure. In all these ways the pulpit suffers when compared with the press. And yet it does not follow that its influence has declined.
But why, it is asked, the present dearth of great preachers? It may be asked, also, what is the standard of greatness in this function? The fact is, none of the Christian ages has been prolific in preachers whom after-times declared great in the highest sense of the term. "The truly great preacher is one of the rarest products of the human mind. The combination of gifts required to produce one is so extraordinary that that generation is fortunate which gives even one to the Church and to mankind. Neither the poet, nor the civic orator, nor the painter, nor the sculptor is so rare." No trait of intellectual or moral greatness can be spared. Even the physical man must be the fitting organ of the great soul, while the spiritual man must be at one with God in Christ Jesus. If you rate greatness by a lower standard, so as to bring under it preachers really eminent in [9/10] learning and eloquence--preachers who influence multitudes of wills by their words of power; and yet men who will be little heard of thirty years hence and totally forgotten in two generations--if we do this, then I am bold to affirm that no age has had a stronger, more gifted, and versatile pulpit than the present. Nay, I am bold to say that the Christian religion has never had so large and well equipped a body of men to propagate it at home and abroad as now. And if there be no corresponding results in the hearts and lives of men, it may be due to causes which lie beyond the power of any ministry to remove, though made up of Augustines and Chrysostoms. There is, I know, a great deal of preaching that misses the mark because its arrows are poorly aimed; a great deal, too, that is mere wind, that panders to a morbid taste, that is sensational and vulgar; a great deal that has no doctrinal backbone and is spongy with liberal and humanitarian vagueness. I know, moreover, not a little of it is hard and heavy and dull--the lame issues of prosaic, plodding, feeble souls, whom Providence, for some inscrutable reason, has transferred to the sacred desk from the highways of hopeless mediocrity. And yet it is my belief that in no previous period of our religion has so much of talent, culture, unction and eloquence been devoted to the proclamation of God's truth to a sinful world. No censor of the pulpit has a right to demand or to expect that every preacher will be a genius any more than he has a right to demand that every one devoted to Law, or Medicine, or Education, or Journalism, shall be a genius. The fact is the [10/11] Ministry is fully on a level, to-day, with any other calling of educated men. There is one quality that has become the special idol of this generation and without which no preacher especially can hope to pass current. I mean smartness, pungency, vivacity. But this is not the greatest power of a great preacher. The main thing is that he shall be what he asks others to become; and if he be that, the really great qualities--depth, fervor, sincerity, will be likely to go with it; also that highest intellectual art--the art of saying great things in plain words. Many there are who are growing weary of rhetoricians, fine talkers, pulpit gymnasts; many who feel that they have had already too much chaff and too little bread.
Signs are not wanting of a rising desire for priests who will handle God's people not as an assembly to be lectured to, but as a working force organized for Christ's service, not for man's pride or pleasure. Preaching is God's ordinance; it has become too much man's contrivance. Unless I am greatly mistaken, we are now passing into a period of Church life when great words will not produce great effects, and men will crave the inner heat rather than the outer sparkle of language. It has been well said that "the day of flocking after great orators is not gone by, but the day of seeing through them is come." "The crackling thorns of fine speech" may arrest the crowd for a brief moment; but the only power that can hold them is that of him who fired with the unwasting flame from God's altar, preaches simply, earnestly
 "Those Christ-like ways which lead to peace.
The hearts of men follow his word as leaves
Troop to wind, or sheep draw after one
Who knows the pasture."
(2) But, again, the Ministry is blamed for its want of self-sacrifice and readiness to endure hardship. Certainly a Ministry without these would not be worth having. It would be a shell without the kernel, a pretence, a deceit, a sham. It would be as unlike the thing Christ instituted as this earth is unlike heaven. It would be as an arm of power bereft of its main sinew. God would disown it. The Church would die under it. The world would despise it. The mere fact that it lives and works, proves that it is not to-day altogether false to the law of its being. This charge, then, on the-face of it, can be only partially true. How partially can be known only by knowing what is going on every day in a thousand homes and parishes. I may not here undertake to lift the veil and tell all that lies behind it--what burdens cheerfully borne, what labors faithfully performed in storm and frost and summer's heat, what distresses and humiliations of poverty, what anxieties as to the fate of wife and children when voice and sight shall fail, what bufferings by vulgar wealth, what contradictions of the ungodly, what insolence and contumely from coarse tongues and coarser hearts, what coldness and what Shylock exactions by the flock, what lonely days and uncheered toil:--and all confronted and endured by men whom a slight wounds like a blow, and an insult cuts like a knife; and this too, with a calm courage, a heroic [12/13] patience, a life-long submission which gives us martyrs, for whom neither the Church nor the world offers a crown. True, darkly, sternly true is all this of some of the clergy. Of how many I may not say. They may be, we may concede that they are, a minority--a small minority, if our judges so insist. But, thank God, there are enough of them to preserve the honor and to exemplify the true genius and the lofty aims of the Christian priesthood. Not all the clergy are given over to easy living in this age of luxury, not all are self-seeking in this age of selfishness, not all have bowed the knee to Baal in this age of idolatries. Some think there is no self-sacrifice, no willingness to endure hardships, because a majority of the clergy do not at once offer themselves for missionary work in heathen lands; as though we had no heathen at home, to work among whom tries a man's nerve and endurance and self-forgetfulness as much as to work among Hindoos and Chinese, Zulus and Patagonians.
Others, again, would not be convinced of the existence of these qualities of character, except they saw the clergy in hair shirts and feeding on locusts and wild honey:
"Making the dust their beds, the loneliest wastes
Their dwelling, and the meanest things their meat;
Clad in no prouder garb than outcasts wear;
Fed with no meats, save what the charitable
Give of their will; sheltered by no more pomp
Than the dim cave lends or the jungle bush." ["The Light of Asia," by Edwin Arnold.]
But, on the other hand, is there no truth whatever in [13/14] the charges? Alas! with shame be it said, our Ministry, as a whole, is not free from reproach. There is too much ground for blame in this regard. Let a call be given to some distant field, and we all know how painfully familiar, how sadly prominent are the questions: What is the salary? Is it near a railroad? How far is it from the city? Is there good society? Is there a parsonage? Is there any provision for six weeks' vacation? What is the custom about donations? Is the church edifice well warmed in winter and properly ventilated in summer? Do the people object to repeating a good sermon within the year? Is there any malaria in the neighborhood? Are exchanges with brethren easily made? Are the vestry kind and considerate, and quite willing to give the rector his own way? Such questions, taken together and' pressing for immediate answer, do not (it must be admitted) tend to recall either the temper or the work of an Apostolic Ministry. They imply very little inclination to forget self and do all for the glory of God. They have a very unheroic and worldly flavor. No strongholds of sin, no citadels of the devil will be carried by the men whose decision turns on the answer they get to such questions. They are soldiers in retreat from the field of battle, and in whose hands the Church knows that neither her honor nor her treasure is safe.
Were there not too much of all this, our young men preparing for Holy Orders would, as a rule, exhibit a nobler morale. They would be thinking more of the frontiers and less of the cities, more of the waste places, and less of those already overcrowded with clergy. That [14/15] cry for help from a dozen bishops in the gigantic west, with its already resident and its still incoming millions, would find open ears. Hundreds of poor parishes and struggling missions between the Atlantic and the Alleghanies, would not wither and die in loneliness and abandonment. That was a mournful experience of a neighboring bishop, who advertised for half a dozen clergy to do mission work in small villages and country districts. He offered to guarantee adequate support for unmarried men, but frankly stated that men of nerve and endurance were required. His attempt was a failure. Yet more noteworthy was the effort of a western bishop who came to the east very lately, to obtain a few picked men for fields white for the harvest, but into which no reaper had thrust the sickle. He published his want, and some forty called upon or corresponded with him. But when the case was stated, "they all with one consent began to make excuse." He went back disheartened by his failure, but still more so by what appeared to be the self-seeking spirit of the younger clergy. Comment upon experiences of this sort is needless. They tell their own story. I shall not here attempt to indicate the remedy. But that a remedy must be found is sure, unless the Church is to settle back in the traces and stop the wheels of progress.
(3) Again, the Ministry is blamed for a lack of boldness and independence in thought and action. Boldness and independence--what is meant by these words? All, I take it, would not agree in their definition. In one school they mean one thing, in another school quite a [15/16] different thing. The Church has her own idea of these qualities and of their limitations; and she has shown what it is by the leaders whom she has embalmed in her memory. St. Paul prayed for utterance, that he might speak boldly the message given him to deliver; and he did so speak, when he withstood St. Peter to the face and preached to the men of Athens, of Corinth, and of Ephesus. Athanasius was sufficiently bold and independent when he stood against the world for the faith once delivered; so was Chrysostom when with words of fire he rebuked the vanities and vices of his flock, from the altar steps of his cathedral; so were Ridley and Latimer when they assailed the false doctrine and ecclesiastical corruption of their day, and accepted the fires of Oxford, as the penalty. So in our own day, were Selwyn and Patteson, when they carried the word of life to the savages of New Zealand and Melanesia. So, too, was the fearless Grey in his vindication of the faith in South Africa. These men, and others like them, were bold in declaring what had been committed to them. They were regardless of all things that hindered them in doing so. But they were neither bold, nor independent in the sense now so popular. They did not deem themselves superior to the system under which they worked. They did not invent new formulas of belief, nor recast the traditional moulds of teaching and of polity. There was about them none of the cheap glamour of what the world calls originality. They were not ambitious of founding new sects to perpetuate their names, nor to overlay the old paths with new ones, whose sign-boards should tell how they had [16/17] hewn down the thick cedars of the early Councils, and bored through mountains of speculation. But now-a-days no man can be bold, no man can be independent who does not lay the axe at the root of venerable traditions, or cast overboard some portion of the cargo which, we have good reason to believe, God stored away in the ark of grace and salvation. Boldness has become recklessness and independence rashness; both alike, counting it a merit to scorn consequences. With us the system is greater than the private judgment; the kingdom greater than any individual; the ancient creeds than any man's speculation; universal consent than any man's dissent; the old and well-worn liturgies than any man's notion about an edifying worship. All this may be our misfortune, but certainly it is our characteristic. It cuts off many and much coveted chances of intellectual fussiness and conceit, dries up many sources of excitement, narrows the arena of gladiatorial displays among theologians, and generally contracts the bounds of what passes for original thought. There are minds that cannot be happy under such conditions; that are at peace only when at war, and see no use for the intellect, except in showing what fools our fathers were. There is a sense in which it is our strength to sit still, to accept what has been handed down, to stand fast in the old ways. If, for doing so, this generation will not think us sufficiently bold and independent, there is no help for it. There is a type of these qualities that we admire, and do what we can to embody. There is another that must be left to others who walk [17/18] not with us, and for whose development, I may add, neither earth nor heaven is large enough.
(4) Again, we are blamed for allowing the Church and the world to be too much intermingled, and compromises of principle and practise to take root in our average life. This complaint is not from the world, for the world is flattered by our imitation of its ways; but from the Church's own heart. Her best thinking and purest living give voice to the censure, and we have no answer for it, save a peccavi and a confiteor. We have discipline enough for the clergy, but next to none for the people. Here the fences are down, the lights are out, the watch is asleep. The only law is that of lawlessness, the only standard is what each chooses to accept. I may not enter upon the causes. I stop with the fact. God's word has a great deal to say on the subject; so had the Church in her early days. From both we have gone adrift; and so far adrift that even to recall the Scriptural or the Primitive rule of the Christian life is to bring upon one the epithets of purist, ascetic, sour censor of morals, stoic, pharisee, hypocrite. And yet there are the old commands bedded and wedged into the Word of Inspiration:
Abstain from all appearance of evil.
Be not deceived; evil communications corrupt good manners.
Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.
 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye are lights in the world. And so on, almost without limit. There, too, are the canons of the early Church, in keeping with these Scriptures. Both point to a gulf between the Church and the world too deep and too broad to be crossed; and yet our modern religion has bridged it and multitudes cross and recross with an impunity which justifies in their minds a doubt whether or no there be any such gulf. Professedly we stand on a higher plane than that of the world. Baptism, Confirmation, the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood put us there. But somehow it melts down by easy stages into that of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Do I speak too strongly? Recall the pleasures, the amusements, the occupations, the luxuries, the pomps of society, the vanities of fashion, the extravagances of wealth, the self-indulgence of the time. That is a sharp eye which can detect in any of these things a radical difference between the children of God and the [19/20] children of the world. Here and there, too, with a view apparently to helping on the demoralization, some priest of the Church, as if to air his liberty or to parade his eccentricity, undertakes to reform and elevate the theatre by the purifying influence of his personal patronage. There have been some foolish and superficial attempts of believers at asserting their separateness from the world. Quakerism tried it with cut-away coats and broad-brimmed hats and neutral tints. Divers-Monastic Orders, at sundry times, have tried it with cowls and cords and unsandalled feet. Better such expedients than none at all. But the true distinction is grounded on feeling, conduct, character; on voluntary abstinence, and simple silent conformity to a higher rule, a loftier tone of life. Now if the rank and file are to be reclaimed from worldliness, their leaders must set the example. The Clergy, in this matter, must bring forth works meet for repentance, if we expect the people to do so. We are on a current which sets strongly toward a wiping out of the boundaries between the sacred and the secular. A subtle pantheism is in the air, which, by making God all things and all things God, eliminates from all moral life the God of our worship, the God of the moral law, the God in Christ who speaks through the Church which is His Body; through the priesthood which is His witness unto the ends of the earth; and through the lives of Christians, which are ordained to be His living epistles unto men. According to this gospel our houses and our sanctuaries, our counting rooms and our altars, our every-day work and our acts of adoration, our indulgences and our denials, [20/21] our politics and our religion, our dinners and our Eucharists, our sensual pleasures and our struggles of conscience are all equally sacred and divine. This theory with some, this sentiment with others, has fastened like a cancer upon the vitals of our Christianity. It must be cut away with knife or burnt out with cautery, if we would save the power as well as the form of godliness.
(5) The Ministry is charged with feeble and shallow methods in the cure of souls. It deals too much, it is said, with assemblies, and too little with individuals. There is excess of preaching, but neglect of personal guidance. We exhort and admonish, but do not edify. There is much hewing of timber, and not much building. The sheep are folded, but are not known by name. Strictly pastoral duty has degenerated into bell-pulls, and card exchanges, and family chats on all subjects save the one for which the pastorate exists. The herding together of the young on the Lord's Day under teachers, who themselves need to be taught the elements of the faith, has taken the place of priestly guidance and authority in expounding the word. All this is said, and who will deny that there is reason for saying it? How many souls need help that do not get it? How many are fighting temptations, every nerve of the conscience, every sinew of the will tense with the agony of the strife, and yet with no hand from without to press home the Cross, and no voice to cry by this Sign shalt thou conquer! How many are plunged first into the shadows of doubt and then into the darkness of despair, with no arm of strength at hand to unbar the shutters [21/22] and let in the light! Never before were there so many minds in the Church in which the joints of faith were loosened: never before so many afloat upon the unsteady and turbid sea of speculation: never before so many inquirers, or so many in painful suspense. Sermons say too much or too little in such cases. The individual soul, in the deep separateness of its own personality, must be grappled with, and a rope thrown to it from the solid banks through which sweeps the current of passion or of doubt. And yet it is just at this time, and amid this want, that we are told by a distinguished authority in the Church, "That the last thing which a thinking man will do in spiritual perplexity is to consult his clergyman: because he knows that his clergyman has never been trained to minister to a mind diseased, because he feels that he shall probably be snubbed for his doubts, and told that difficulties which are to him very real, are no difficulties at all." [Dean Alford's Essays and Addresses, p. 147.] I state the case and there leave it, having no time for comment or admonition. Let those that have ears to hear, hear.
(6) But to take up another ground of censure, the Ministry is arraigned for its lack of enterprise and its feeble faculty of organization. The facts are before us, and there is no dispute about them. Let us look at them as they are, and profit by what they teach. In platform addresses, in Convention Reports, and in congratulatory speeches, we, now and then, wax happy over our achievements, and make the most of what material we have for eulogy and mutual admiration. But such [22/23] moods, however enjoyable, do not change the facts. It is a fact that we have, in this century, octupled our bishops and clergy, our dioceses and parishes, our communicants and offerings. It is a fact that we have in a yet greater ratio advanced in social influence and public prominence. But it is also a fact that in the same time the population and resources of the country have multiplied not eight, but twelve fold. It is a fact too, that we have had not only unexampled opportunities of growth, but equally unexampled incentives to make the most of them. In footing up the results we may justly claim that our difficulties shall be duly considered. To recite these in detail would be a familiar story. It is enough to recall in a general way the extra weights imposed upon us by the logic of events. It is known that this Church had a bad start in the ecclesiastical race; that it began with a polity stifled and mutilated by the folly and neglect of the Mother Church; that it came out of the Revolution saddled with popular prejudices; that it took one generation to establish the fact that it had a right to exist on American soil, and to prove that its growth would not necessarily endanger the liberty ofthe Republic. It is known, too, that it required another generation to soften the rancorous hate of sectarian opposition to prelates and prayer-books. All this is known and admitted. And yet let our hindrances and trials be rated as they may, who will claim that the growth, the power, the influence of the Church are today what they ought to be? That would be an uncandid tongue that would portray our past as one of glory [23/24] and might, or that would represent it as abounding in tokens of aggressive enterprise, or of strong and energetic methods for rallying the hearts and wills of God's people, or for turning to the best account sources of power always latent in Christ's Body. We find proofs enough of a quiet, orderly, conservative spirit, and of a due sense of corporate dignity: but, alas! how few of the consciousness of a great mission to the rising empires of this continent, or of a solemn and resolute purpose to achieve it. Certainly the retrospect is not inspiring. It is almost barren of kindling memories and quite devoid of freshening, salient enthusiasms, that roll up against adverse winds and a darkened sky, flooding torpid souls and waste places with holy fire.
There have been some, not many, commanding leaders, who
"Have, like dauntless, apostolic heroes fought."
There have been some, not many victories worthy of the soldiers of Christ.
Nor is the outlook now as hopeful as it might be. We are still troubled with lame methods and a defective organization. As for money, we somehow fail to get what we need, though, in proportion to its numbers, ours is the wealthiest of Communions in this land. Our giving is meagre and spasmodic; so much so, that every leading interest is cramped, if not crippled. As for men, there is poor economy in our use of them. How many are wrongly placed! How many not placed at all! How many in the rear that should be at the front, and vice versa! What wastage of gifts, because [24/25] there is no authority to distribute them wisely! Vestries choose, bishops acquiesce. Pew-holders are omnipotent, the Episcopate powerless. [I have only hinted at troubles which, as they come more and more to the surface, stoutly refuse to be kept out of sight any longer. Doubtless in the discussion recently begun with so much vigor, of the alleged unchurchly and even vicious relations subsisting between our parochial system and the clergy, there has been more or less extravagance of statement; but certainly enough has been shown to prove beyond all question that the very elements of our ecclesiastical life have not yet been properly adjusted. The air is full of complaint and censure. The laity are roughly handled for claiming too much power and for misusing what they already have. Not a few of the clergy are protesting in angry and indignant terms against the disorders, abuses and tyrannies of which they believe themselves the victims. Several bishops have spoken on the subject in tones which show how deep the iron has entered into their souls. Our Church press begins to teem with articles evincing a determination to hammer away on the anvil of public opinion, until some better code of parish ethics shall be devised and beaten into shape. That must be a deep-rooted and bitter defect in our organization which can call forth from lips that are wont to weigh the words they utter, such language as this: "Is it fitting that the household of faith should place its leaders and teachers at the mercy of successful speculators and fortune makers, of a fashionable woman, an angry fac tion, a political market-man, a Pharisee and his family, a miser, or a fool?" "If the present system is continued and pressed to its logical results, the manhood and influence of the Clergy are gone." "The insolence and conceit of wealth and ambition are working fearful cruelties in the parish system as we now have it." So much from bishops. Let me add an extract or two from a thoughtful writer in the "Churchman," who claims to be the organ of a considerable number of distressed presbyters. "It is evident that a state of wide-spread discouragement, and almost of hopelessness, about the future before them, as ministers of Christ, exists among the Clergy of the Church, secularizing some, and paralyzing very many more; producing alienation between them and their bishops; destroying mutual confidence between them and the laity, and even forcing many of the Clergy into such a struggle with each other for the very means of living, as sadly to weaken, if not to destroy the natural bond which should unite them in oneness of Christian purpose and fellowship." The only comment I wish to make upon these and many like declarations is that, so far as they are grounded upon facts, they prove that we are" soon to be confronted with one of the most elementary problems in the economy and administration of the Church. If it be true that, on the one side, the question of Provinces is now inevitable, and that, on the other, that of the proper relations of Parishes to the Clergy, to the Diocese and to the Episcopate is equally so, then it is also true that, in spite of all our legislation in a hundred years, we are yet groping our way toward the adjustment of the very simplest wheels in our machinery,] As for our Schools, Colleges, [25/26] Seminaries, what a record is there! Not one of them is equipped as it should be. Not one of them is meeting the demands of the hour; most of them holding on amid struggle and discouragement, hoping that something will turn up to better their fortunes. What a lack of concert of action and concentration of purpose! Means enough and to spare, and yet how little that is available. Our missions at home and abroad--well, why linger to speak of them? It is an oft told tale of hindrance and delay. We have individual churchmen whose private income is larger than the whole amount given for their support. One-third, at least, of our parishes do not give a dollar to maintain them. The life of our Missionary Bishops is one prolonged cry for help; but there is no answer, save one that takes the heart out of them.
Though so far on in our history, we have not yet determined practically the relations of the diocese to its parishes, whether it creates them, or they create it. And so we have yet to settle what is the proper ecclesiastical unit in our polity. We are still frightened by the ghost of Episcopal authority, practically conceding to it only the power which personal character gives it, and starting back sometimes in wild alarm when the office attempts to put forth some sign of genuine sway. We have been spreading little by little over the continent. [26/27] Aiming to be a National Church, we still linger in the mould and wear the fetters of what amounts to a single Province.
It is now more than twenty-five years since it became apparent that we must organize into groups our multiplying dioceses, and thus introduce new wheels into our ponderous machinery. The urgency is admitted, the general scheme has been before the Church mind all these years; and yet so slack and feeble is our talent for organization, that we have got no further than the Report of a Committee expressing a cautiously worded opinion that it is expedient to divide into Provinces, and to inquire how it can be done without offending anybody's prejudices, or hurting anybody's feelings. [Twenty-five years, when counted off by the almanac, is not a long time to wait for the development and consummation of any important change in the mutable part of our Ecclesiastical system. And yet it is a long lime when measured by the rapid modifications and evolutions of the life with which we have to deal. In four times twenty-five years our population has grown from 3,000,000, to 50,000,000, and this nation has passed from infancy to manhood. Socially, politically, and industrially we have crowded into that period an amount of activity not only without a parallel in the history of older peoples, but difficult to believe even by ourselves. It may be that, in our efforts to adapt the Church to its surroundings, we have moved as fast as our habits of thought would allow. But this does not alter the fact that we have culpably lagged behind nearly all other lines of movement in what we have done to cope with the emergencies of our time and people. Hasty legislation has been deprecated and its evils freely pointed out. But what is criminal haste under one set of circumstances, may be criminal delay under another. The truth is the world has moved too fast for our sense of order and propriety. It has acted while we have only debated; built roads and used them, while we have deemed our duty done by appointing road surveyors and filing away their reports for future consideration. The masses about us do not question our liberty to coach on the old turnpikes; but they do say that those who prefer this mode of travel cannot expect to do much in the way of guiding them while steaming over iron rails at forty miles an hour.]
[Three pages missing]