IN CATHOLICITY STRENGTH,
THE BASIS OF THE
RELIGION FOR THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE.
PREACHED BEFORE “THE SOUTHERN CONVOCATION”
ZION CHURCH, DOBBS’ FERRY, NEW YORK,
November 3rd, 1880.
CHAUNCEY B. BREWSTER,
Rector of Christ Church, Rye.
PRINTED BY REQUEST.
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone: in whom all the building fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together, for an habitation of God through the spirit. Eph. ii., 20-22.
We have here the outline of an edifice. Certain loose theories, regarding the Church as only an aggregation of separate atoms, would make “Jerusalem an heap of stones.” The Apostle’s inspired thought pictures the compact structure of a temple, the fulfillment of those Divine words: “I will build my Church.”
Into this temple are built Gentiles as well as Jews. The argument has been that those race partitions have been broken down by Christ, and that His Church is not for one nation, but for all nations, a Church universal. Secondly, it is to be a Church historic. Those who “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets “are joined unto the glorious company of the apostles and the goodly fellowship of the prophets. For whether these be prophets of the Old or of the New Testament; whether this “foundation of the apostles” means that they laid the foundation, or that they are the foundation, as St. John saw “twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb;” the meaning evidently is, that this is to be the Church of that first age, and of all the ages after, as built upon an Apostolic foundation. Thirdly, the lines of these foundation walls meet in “Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone.” There is laid “a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation.” All the Building rests, not on a Book, [5/6] nor on a system, but upon this Divine Person. From the Apostles’ fellowship we have come to the Apostles’ doctrine, centering and summed up in Jesus Christ Himself.
This is a picture of the Holy Catholic Church. It sets before us three particulars of Catholicity:
Catholicity of Doctrine,
Catholicity of Organization,
Catholicity of Mission.
Those who are wont to say the Creed ought not to fear, but rather glory in, this word, Catholic. It means general, universal, whole, as distinguished from something partial or defective. The name is applied to the Church in an Epistle of St. Ignatius, who was a contemporary of St. John; [Ep. ad Smyrn. 8.] also in the ancient account of the martyrdom of St. John’s disciple, St. Polycarp, an account addressed generally “to all the parishes (dioceses) everywhere of the Holy Catholic Church.” [Euseb. Hist. Eccl. iv., 15.] “For this,” says St. Cyril of Jerusalem, “is the peculiar name of this Holy Body, the Mother of us all, which is the Spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God.” [Cateches. xviii., 12, p. 252, Oxford Library of the Fathers.] And St. Pacian argues: “When after the Apostles heresies had burst forth, * * * did not the Apostolic people require a name of their own, whereby to mark the unity of the people that were uncorrupted?” And he says, “Christian is my name, but Catholic my surname.” [Ep. i. ad Sympron., p. 321, 322, Oxford Library of the Fathers.]
The Apostles’ Creed from the first contained this article: The Holy Catholic Church. There is express recognition, of “the whole Catholick Church of Christ” in the preface to the English Book of Common Prayer. [“Secretly striking at some established doctrine, or laudable practice, of the Church of England, or indeed of the whole Catholick Church of Christ.” In the Visitation Office of the American Book, the prayer taken from Bp. Taylor’s “Holy Dying.”]
We have found suggested in the text three elements of Catholicity. They belong together. The Divine Person involves the Apostolic doctrine. The Apostolic doctrine includes the Church of Apostolic organization. And that, by the very commission of the Apostles, involves universality of mission “into all the world, Further, all the building thus “fitly framed together, groweth.” By a law of increase, ever it is growing “unto an holy temple in the Lord,” like one of those old-world cathedrals whereon through long centuries work never stops.
This Temple, however, “groweth” on the one plan of its Architect and Builder, Who is God. Whatever adaptations or “readjustments” there may be, to meet the conditions of any particular age, yet the change or development must proceed upon that unchanged basis of Catholicity, whence there is to be no departure. In all her progress with the movement of the world, the Church is ever to move forward on these lines: Catholicity doctrinal, Catholicity historic, Catholicity of mission.
Let me call your attention, brethren, to Catholicity as the essential basis of the Religion for the present and the future. Let me ask you to see, that herein is strength for to-day and for ever.
It is not a day of peace in which we find ourselves [7/8] “set for the defence of the gospel.” It is a time peculiarly of unrest and agitation. Men are carried about with every wind, and their eyes blinded with “a dust of systems.” The air is thick with presage. On our shore, before a storm, they can hear the beating of the surf against the ocean coast of Long Island, twenty miles away. So, while yet far from our quiet havens may be the coming storm, we may already hear its approach, and know it soon shall be upon us. It were vain in times like these not to expect conflict, amidst which we are to contend for the faith once delivered.
And whatsoever be the peculiar conditions of this age, let me ask you to see the strength there is in the old Catholic foundations, to consider the position which the Church has held so long against many foes, and “mark well her bulwarks” for the impending strife.
First, then, against the array of hostile forces, strength lies in Catholicity of Doctrine. It is not in liberalism, with its truce and parley. (Latitudinarianism is not Catholicity.) It is not in any “reconciliation” which shall be tantamount to surrender. Nor does it lie in the crumbling defences of a Protestantism, which, whatever it once meant, and however honorably it once designated certain imperilled truths, has come to cover a multitude of negations, and to mean anything or nothing. To say a man is a Protestant, conveys no adequate idea of what he believes. He may be a Methodist or a Presbyterian; he may be a Unitarian or a free-thinker. Protestantism, as such, in its protesting attitude, is essentially negative. In the conflict with doubt, our strength must consist in something essentially positive. It is not that we shall protest the less [8/9] firmly against corruptions of the truth, but that we shall the more earnestly contend for the Faith, which was delivered.
We must preach Catholic doctrine, as distinguished from sectarian speculations. It is against these latter that the revolt of the age is primarily. Its fierce denials were oftenest in the first instance provoked by the speculations of those system-makers and founders of sects, who map out the heritage of God’s truth, mark out their boundary lines, “and call the lands after their own names.” Turn now to that old theology, wherein the Saints and Doctors, a St. Athanasius, or a St. Augustine, stars of the first magnitude though they be, yet merge their lustre in the glory of the central sun. [St. Augustine maybe said to have impressed on succeeding ages a system, but he was not in any sense sectarian. He was by no means the maker of a system differing from that of the Catholic Church.] ONE is not only centre wherein all merges; He is the Foundation, whereon all rests. All Catholic dogma is built up on Him, the Incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone.
Here, then, is our doctrinal position. And nothing can carry that position; aggressively maintained, it means victory. Let us not join battle on narrow issues, while ours may be the challenge: “What think ye of Christ?” Confront, for example, the Agnostic know-nothing with the historic Christ. There is a sublime Fact, not to be gainsaid or explained away. Press upon the Positivist, with his “no god but humanity,” this, the true “religion of humanity,” because the revelation of Deity in perfect humanity, no abstract idea, but the Divine Man Christ Jesus. Let the Materialist learn to know of a spirit in man; as he hears that [9/10] Voice, speaking as never man spake, demanding entrance into the closed and darkened chambers of his own soul; and hears a voice within him answer: Even so, come, Lord Jesus! My Lord and my God!
If these pronounced foes be not in our parishes, we may yet be sure there are about us all manner of heretical opinions, and a license of thought opposed to all doctrine. The causes have been already indicated. Opposition to the Atonement is chiefly a recoil from distorted, sometimes revolting, caricatures of the truth. Denial of the Adorable Trinity is largely a re-action against unwarranted, and even heretical, speculations imposed as doctrines. And where such results are not, still there is a weakening of the moral pulse, an enervation of the old robustness of certain virtues, that can be met, not with airy sentiment, but with solid doctrine. The age needs positive, dogmatic teaching. Now and again there is a reminder of that far away scene on that green hill-side sloping to the white beach of the holy lake. About us throng multitudes of men and women, having wandered far. The compassionate Friend of men bids us feed them. If we obey, with His blessing there shall be “bread enough and to spare.” Only let us go to Him for the bread of life, and give them, not bare schemes of salvation, but the Saviour, “Jesus Christ Himself “; not abstract formulas, but the Person and the Facts, Jesus Christ and Him Crucified, Jesus and the Resurrection. Those theories are but fragments, dry, broken crumbs; He the Bread of the world. All those sectarian theologies, however brilliant, still
“are but broken lights of Thee,
And Thou, O Lord, art more than they!”
 Let us then preach positively the doctrines which centre in Christ Jesus the Lord; the Eternal Son, Incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, both God and Man; Christ in His life, and dying for the world, and risen life forevermore; Christ Who is our life; Christ in His Sacraments; Christ the coming Judge; Christ the hope of glory.
Firm on that sure foundation, beneath both Holy Bible and Holy Church, “Jesus Christ Himself,” let us preach Him as both the substance, and the incontrovertible evidence, of the Gospel; to all questionings and doubts whatsoever, set forth Him as the Divine answer, “This is my beloved Son; hear him”; and, that sublime character attesting those transcendent claims, let men hear that majestic proclamation: I am the Truth.
Further, His Religion is embodied as a visible and corporate Institution. We come to the Catholic organization on the Apostolic foundation, “the pillar and ground of the truth.” This notably once saved Christianity from the wreck of the ancient world, amidst the floating fragments of uncounted heresies and sects, by its unbroken succession, and steadfast testimony to the faith committed to its keeping. How stands, in relation to the present day, the historic Church, not of an age, but of the ages?
A leading idea of this time is the recognition that mankind is made up, not of separate, isolated individuals, but of correlated members of the one vast whole.
Allusion has been made to the attempted erection of this idea into a new religion, the religion of humanity, with its imagined god, “our Father Man,” with [11/12] its travesty of Christian worship, faith, and ethics. But apart from this, it is felt by the spirit of the age as never before, that no one liveth to self alone, but that lives touch and enter into other lives; and thus all human life is regarded as bound together by some underlying theory of unity.
Here, to this undisguised attitude of the thought of our day, should be presented the Church, as the ideal, and by far the best realization, of united and corporate humanity; generation after generation of men all baptized into One Body; the Catholic Church the real commonwealth of humanity, the treasure-house of mankind, into which for so many ages its best has come.
There is herein involved, first, evidence in the simple fact. The structure rests upon the Apostolic foundation walls meeting in the corner-stone, Jesus Christ Himself, to Whom thus all the building witnesses. The historic Institution, with its Apostolic succession, carries us back, with the force of demonstration, to the commission of the Risen Lord Who said: “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
There is testimony moreover in the common Christian consciousness of believers, in “Catholic consent.” The Blessed Lord’s prayer for the unity of Christians, in order “that the world may believe,” warrants our pressing with emphasis upon the evidence that lies wherever has been realized this unity of the faithful.
In this Catholic consent is implied that which meets my yearning for something more and better than to-day and myself alone may show. Shall I hope to sound [12/13] the depths of the sea by my own fathom line? Shall I attempt to cross the vast ocean in my canoe? As well seek to know all truth by my own individual powers, utterly ignoring what the Holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge. Belief, it is true, is a personal act. Every man must believe for himself and not another. In proceeding by faith, a man must go in person, by his own act. But he goes most safely, when he goes in the great company of all faithful people, the spiritually enlightened body of believers in all times and all places.
Another characteristic of our time is the recognition that there is an historic development; that one age is bound to another in an organic relation of growth; that history reveals a connected and continuous progress; that, beneath the surface and its commotion, flows “the mighty stream of tendency”; that ever “through the ages one increasing purpose runs”; and that thus the world moves on.
Now in this great idea of orderly development, what a predisposition for that conception, in this text, of a continuous process of building according to the plan of a Divine Architecture! How this recognition of the sequence of events prepares for the recognition of the Supreme Author of this augustly unfolding drama of all history! By His Spirit the whole Body of the Church is governed and guided onward from generation to generation. The same through the ages, her present is one with her past, and what she has been makes her what she is. And yet the ideal Commonwealth of mankind is no mere antiquarian society, turning wistfully back to a long vanished time. [13/14] No! The Church is the Bride of Christ; and her face is forward, beholding the power of an endless life, looking to be “changed from glory to glory” by the Spirit, of her Lord, and to be at last presented to Him “a glorious Church,” “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
Thus, like all history, that of the Kingdom of God presents a true development. Thus we have not only the Incarnate Lord in a Holy Book, precious though the portrayal be on those hallowed pages. We have not merely the letter of the written word, but also, for its interpretation, the Spirit of the Living Word; the abiding Spirit, developing explicitly what was before implicitly held, for example, the Creeds, as successive statements of the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints; the Spirit of Truth, teaching, not new truth, but new aspects and applications, new harmonies and glories, of the old truth, which was from the beginning, and was revealed in Jesus Christ Himself, “the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.”
This development is entirely distinct from any such addition to the plan as would prove out of line with the foundation and corner-stone. It is distinct from the Ultramontane production of blasphemous novelties and un-apostolic limitations of Catholicity.
The model is not that of modern Romanism, but that of primitive Catholicity. It is not Romanism as it ever was, but Catholicity as it always has been; the Catholicity which to-day is more by a great deal than a fond affectation of Medievalism; but which, rejecting [14/15] certain corruptions and abuses, and resting upon the testimony of Holy Scripture and Primitive Antiquity, with the appeal to the Catholic Parliament of a true and free General Council; holding with St. Ignatius and St. Cyprian, the Apostolic Episcopate, not the Papal Monarchy, as the bond of visible unity; and witnessing to that highest kind of unity, organic oneness in manifoldness; is distinguished froth both modern Romanism- on the one hand, which means simply consolidation, and on the other the there Protestantism which means disintegration; and presents an ideal at once larger than either, and profounder far.
In this historic aspect the Church of Christ is vastly larger than the Church of any single nation or race. “Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel?” There is a way of discoursing on the Protestant Episcopal Church, its decency and order, and “incomparable liturgy,” which is like standing always rapt in admiration before some richly carved Norman doorway, and forgetting to go on and enter within the majestic nave that lies beyond. “This Church” is only a part of the whole. It is the part that gives us our entrance into the Holy Temple, reared upon that Apostolic foundation and Divine corner-stone, and with what an innumerable multitude of stones builded into it, very many so far above us as to be lost to sight from our lower standpoint, but all living stones! Let our prayer be, not so much that [15/16] all the world may become Protestant Episcopalian, as that they may come to believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, and be brought to be “fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”
This large historic aspect of Christianity ought to be lovingly yet faithfully presented to a divided and distracted Sectarianism, with its now strikingly manifested yearnings after something better. Let them more and more see that no one man may conceive, no separate sect contain, the vast circumference of all Truth. Tell them:
“There are more things in heaven and earth
Than are dreamt of in our philosophy.”
Show them that they may turn from the partial to the universal, form broken cisterns hewed out by men to “the river of God which is full of water,” that river “proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb;” and that, thus drinking into the One Spirit, and thus joined in the One Body to Christ, as He is one with God, to them may belong the grand Catholic claim: “All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; ALL are yours; and ye are Christ’s: and Christ is God’s.”
We come to Catholicity of Mission. At an early period in her history, the Christian Church would seem to have been tempted to forget the great lesson, taught by the Divine Master and illustrated by Apostolic example, the lesson of her mission to the world. Various causes united to produce in certain quarters a fanatical exaggeration of unworldliness, and a rigorous strictness [16/17] of separation, anxious rather to escape from the corruption of the world than to be the salt to save it from corruption. This overstrained spirituality, which was but an early manifestation of Puritanism, appears notably in Montanism, and also in Novatianism and Donatism. Had it secured the ascendancy, the Church must have become a pietistic sect amidst the world, and would never have been an aggressive power on the world, conquering and to conquer. It was only by a series of intense struggles, that she cast out this narrowing spirit, and asserted herself as the Catholic Church for the masses of mankind.
Never should it be forgotten that the Kingdom of God was to permeate all things till the whole should be leavened. The Church must to-day remember this universality, not of message merely, but of mission, to meet the world at every point of deepest need, and minister to all sorts and conditions of men.
Our century is distinguished by the attention paid, as in its beginning to political questions, so in this latter portion to social problems. To these is applied one method of solution, the principle of association. The great word is co-operation. The age has beheld societies, orders of fellowship, unions, communities, fraternities, “internationals,” social experiments of all descriptions, arise on every hand, significant tokens of its social aims and aspirations.
Now in the Catholic Church is presented the realization of a vast Society, the true “International,” including the idea of the brotherhood of men, a society which moreover involves the principle of the membership of men with one another.
 It is an Institution with both a mighty work to do for all men as they are, and also a noble ideal of what mankind ought to be, because a Church built on the Man Christ Jesus.
This Catholicity of Mission it is ours to recognize; and in our day and generation to fulfill. May it be deemed not presumptuous, in this presence, to glance at some things herein involved, wholly or in part, one day to be realized. It is a picture that recalls what the world since saw, when faith and love in their young might subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises. It is a Church manifesting an apostolic zeal in missions to preach every where the Gospel: a Church with her organized works; for example the Bishop’s see in centres where men congregate, and the Cathedral with its clustering charities and branching ministrations to many spiritual and temporal needs of the people: a Church with her organized effort; orders, deaconesses, sisterhoods, brotherhoods, guilds, any directed effort by association to bless the world and relieve its wants and woes; with her Houses of prayer, open to a man as often as he wants to pray; her Churches free and open, wherein to the poor the Gospel is preached without rent-money and without price, where the rich and the poor “meet together” on a common level. It is a Church thus for men as men: a Church which, knowing throughout this broad land no strangers and foreigners, shall be herself a fulfillment of the poet’s, description of our country,
She of the open soul and open door,
With room about her hearth for all mankind:”
a Church which, toward the solution of any more [18/19] perplexing problem of the time, shall fearlessly hold out the principle: of recognizing men as children of One Father, and brethren by the Gospel of the Incarnation. It is a Church, above all, wherein multiplied, machineries alone shall be no substitute for that love of men for Christ’s sake, which, in personal ministration sees Him, in His sick and poor, His afflicted and suffering; a Church wherein a recognition of this Catholicity of Mission shall be manifested in every parish, the priest the father and friend of all within his reach, the members “not ashamed to call them brethren.”
Let thus the gospel of the Kingdom be everywhere preached and practiced, and the Church is furnished with arguments against the secularist. In this aspect she would meet without a fear all that hostility to religion, which may be described, as socialistic. Against such a manifestation of the Religion of Christ nothing could stand. The Church would go forth, as an army with banners, to win new victories surpassing the old; again to give the law to great peoples; to be at once the social, arbiter and reconciler, binding class to class and nation to nation; and, amid the shaking of the old, to bring in the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
It remains to speak of the end to be kept in view. “In Whom ye also.” As all is founded on a Person, so the end of all is personal; these living men to be the Temple of the Living Lord, “an habitation of God through the Spirit.” The end is the Divine Life in men. Here the subject closely touches our own selves. Here once more is met a want of the age. Our age is characterized by a nearly equal interest in the questions [19/20] of socialism on the one hand, and of individualism on the other. The problems of socialism may be dealt with, as we have seen, by the Church in her aspect of brotherhood, the Kingdom of heaven on earth. The questions of individualism are answered by the truth of the Spirit of God in the soul of man, the gospel of the Kingdom of God within you. And thus the circle is complete. The churchly and the personal; the corporate and the individual, the seeming contradiction here is solved in Christ, “in Whom ye also”—there is the personal,—”are builded together”—there is the churchly. Christ is “the head over all things, to the Church.” Christ is the image to be formed in each of you. Our Blessed Lord Himself joins together these two, the unity of the Church and the personal perfecting of believers: “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” Here again is the complete harmony of Catholicity, as distinguished from the Protestantism which denies the organic unity, and the Romanism which denies the individual. Catholicity joins both half-truths in the whole truth of the “One Body” and the many “members in particular.”
The end, then, is to reform Society at large, and also to make better men and women. And, oh! the power against unbelief that there is in manhood transformed by the Divine Life within, the Kingdom of God and His righteousness!
This great end, while it makes against the over-appreciation of elaborated ecclesiastical machinery, makes also against any sectarian shibboleths, any substitution of mere assent to a doctrine, or of feeling right, for the righteousness of doing right and being right with God through Christ.
 The Catholic Church, so far as her purposes relate to men, exists to produce the Catholic character, personal holiness, wholeness, “perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” The end of her manifold ministries is: “Till we call come unto a perfect man.” Thus her foundation truth of the Incarnation would find its complete fulfillment: God dwelling with man, and man walking with God, God in man, and man in God.
The thought turns to mark how the Catholic aspiration after this oneness with the Holy God finds expression in worship. My reference is not to particular offices, but to the pervading idea of Catholic worship. It centers in the Blessed Sacrament of the spiritual and on that account not less real Presence of Him Who died, and lives, and gives Himself to us, that He may dwell in us, and we in Him. Moreover, raising us out of ourselves, and above this world to where Christ sitteth, and lifting our hearts unto the Lord, it becomes a faint reflection of the beauty and majesty of the heavenly worship, a far-off anticipation of its beatific adoration; yea, an earthly participation, with angels and archangels and all the hosts of the redeemed, in that ceaseless praise, “as the voice of many waters,” the mighty tide that rolls its waves of worship to the foot of the Throne of Him Who is
HOLY! HOLY! HOLY!
My brethren in the priesthood: That the present is a trying time, does by no means make it a disheartening time, in which to exercise the ministry committed to us. The profound truths of God, the deep needs of men, are essentially what they ever have been. And now, as of old, “Deep calleth unto deep.” Whether [21/22] we plead with the people on God’s behalf from the pulpit, or before the Altar plead with God for the people, let us ever remember we are priests in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, for all men of all the generations, built on Jesus Christ Himself the chief corner-stone. And, strong in the inspiration of this large truth, let us thank God and take courage!
Ours is the great business to extend that Kingdom of heaven on earth, and also to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” Ours it is, striving according to His working Who worketh in us mightily, to labor on the Temple-walls, and to fashion men, one by one, into living stones meet for the Master Builder’s use, worthy to be built into that Temple which rises day by day, the Temple of consecrated humanity.
The Church for man, it is moreover the Church of God, because built on Him Who is both God and Man. Divine, as in its origin, so in its design, its methods, its destinies, from age to age, noiselessly and “not with observation,” it ever “groweth” unto that Divine Ideal—the Church of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues; and yet the One Church of the Living God, “Which was, and is, and is to come.”