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The Motherhood of the Church.






In St. James Church, Chicago, on the Seventeenth Sunday after
Trinity, Oct. 17th, 1886.


Published by request of the Minnesota Delegation
to the General Convention.





Galatians 4:26. "Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all."

The Fatherhood of God! The Brotherhood of Christ! The Motherhood of the Church!

Are words things? At any rate do they mean things? And these words! Do we use them and own them and take in what they mean?

If yes, we are amused at the old Epicurean thology with its atomic entities as gods, who lived apart, serenely happy; who did not make man nor the world, and of course kept themselves unknowing of, and untroubled by, such imperfectly made things. And our amusement runs on at the naturalism, materialism, agnosticism of to day, which is old Epicureanism in new garb. The form is clothed upon in modern fashion, but that form in itself is quite the same. It puts God far away; apart serene. It counts either that He did not make the world of man, or, having nade and launched them has abdicated active rulership and thrown up continuing care. When the flashes of our irresistible amusement are over their light play, we turn with a sigh of pity for those who see not with us, and with a strong breathing of devout [3/4] gratefulness for ourselves, to the words which are things, and the things which are blessed truth, God our Father, Christ our Brother, the Church our Mother.

Nay, Epicurean friends, old or new. the triune God is not far off, nor hath He flung us out from the ken of His loving regard.

He, our Father, is near to hear prayer, to guide lives, to save souls. He, our Brother, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, in the preciousness of a close human sympathy, is in heaven, interceding for us, making possible and promoting our much needed forgiveness. He, our Sanctifier and Holy Comforter, is here on earth, guiding consciences, upstaying hearts, upbuilding spiritual lives through the Sacraments and Offices of our Mother Church.

The Motherhood of the Church. Suffer it to be my theme. There's a sweet tenderness in the word. Mother! I know only two words sweeter in the English tongue; and they only because they enlarge and project the tenderness--Home and Heaven. Mother! How the loyalty of the strong man's heart and the clinging feebleness of the young child's needs start up alike in a glow of gratefulness at the word. Mother! The best thoughts that earth begets--the highest hopes that heaven proffers, are closely twined with that much loved name.

[5] When first God made man, He gave the Church to be a Mother to him. Abel's sacrifice of faith and Cain's of wilfulness; Noah's altar builded unto the Lord, and the stones gathered by Jacob unto an heap at Mizpah; the prayers and praises made in homes, and the promises and blessings received there and manifested, how the Mother at first, in the Patriarchal Church, guided and fed her children. Then in the covenant with Abraham, and the sacred rites and ceremonies elaborate of the Mosaic worhip, she took upon herself the form of the Jewish Church, and finally, after her Master, our Elder Brother, had come and died and risen and ascended, the Mother became the Catholic Church--i. e., the Church for all--and not for one chosen nation only, the Jewish, as heretofore.

St. Paul does not scruple to speak of the Jewish Church, though it was happier and greater than the Patriarchal, as narrow, limited of covenant, bondage hampered; while he styles the Christian Church the Jerusalem which is above, the heavenly Jerusalem, which he adds, “is free and is the mother of us all."

It was to the Church of far Eastern Galatia that he was writing. We in America of the West are of the same Church to-day, with the same two Holy Sacraments, the same Apostles' Creed, the same threefold ministry, the same faithful, if imperfect, discipleship.

[6] We gather this day to commission and send forth one more chief Shepherd in the apostolic line, to feed the flock and to do the set duty of watch and guidance; and we seek to strengthen his heart and refresh our own with thoughts and thanks about our Mother, the Church.

She is our mother. We are born of her. We are born into her. Her blood courses in our veins. Her Master and our Savior appointed her to be the Mother. And He gave her gifts for her to keep and use for men. His first great gift of the Other Comforter, God the Holy Spirit, to be His invisible but real and personal vicar here on earth in abiding presence with her and guidance of her till the end. And after Him and with Him the other gifts--the Scriptures--the Creed--the Sacraments--the Ministry. Ah! A most queenly mother she is! Richly and honorably endowed! And abundantly provided with all viatica needed for the pilgrimage of the innumberable ones who through her are made members of Christ, the children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.

Now, dear brethren, shall we not be loyal to her? Our own Mother, a Queen, the visible vicar of the Master on earth as the Holy Ghost is the invisible! O, brethren of the clergy, can you betray her? Can you defy her? Is your heart so hard? Can you harbor a thought of wilful disloyalty to [6/7] her? I ask not that ye be weaklings tied to apron strings. I grant you manly, independent right. "Nullius jurare in verba magistri."

But is it possible that you can find it in yourselves to cast one dark doubt upon her Holy Scriptures, or think of changing in one jot or tittle the ipsissima verba of her old everlastingly iterated Catholic creed; or speak a word of disesteem of her two invaluable Holy Sacraments; or do one act of disloyal slack twistedness that shall bring into question the undimmed authority of her historically continued apostolic ministry? Or will ye stand tamely by for others to do these base things? And she our Mother, and a Queen! God forbid!

Dear brethren, all, men, women and children, will ye not keep yourselves in her home, and stand true to her laws, and heed lovingly her wishes, and take jealous care against enticing words of outside strayers, because she is your mother, and you are born of her, and fed by her, and watched over in her wise and uwearing care?

And it is a thought of great comfort that her mother love is not limited by Earth's horizon. The Jerusalem that is above--the heavenly Jerusalem--is the Church triumphant with the Church militant. She doth not die. With the quick at the last she shall be caught up. There will be a marriage of the Lamb. She shall be the Bride and Spouse.

[8] The Church, our Mother, the Queen, is free, says St. Paul.

People who are free meet others and act in a way of generous warmth that people who are not free cannot assume. Noblesse oblige. In many well known ways the Jewish Church was hedged and limited. Of God's wise purposes she was so. But the Christian Church was to be Catholic--for all. She is free indeed in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made her free; and in a freedom unhedged and unlimited of active love.

Let a forbearing magnanimity and a noble generosity mark her then, and be you and I helpers that these shall not be wanting among her marks. I hail with joy and thanks the signs that the Church in America is getting to show and to be proud of these marks more than she used to. Om country is growing great. Many men of many minds are in it. You cannot make those many men think exactly alike. God has not made those many men to look exactly alike. The clergy are men. They do not think exactly alike. A growing number of them seem inclined not to do things in public worship exactly alike. Especially in our large cities where manifoldness of thought and action most prevails. And what is to be done? It used to be said that a Churchman, compelled to be travelling in strange places, always felt at home in Church, for there he would hear and assist at [8/9] the one old Prayer Book service. This is now said to be quite changed, and to be almost "quot presbyteri tot usus."

Suffer me to answer. I know the comfort that old home feeling was. Personally I deplore the changes that are infractions of the comfort. But consider. May there not be somewhat of the selfish in that old fashioned comforting. And may there not be life, growth, zeal, advance in the provoking changes? Any way, if some ministers and congregations by the changes they ask for can promote the more earnest and reverent worship of Almighty God, and set forward with more life and efficiency the salvation of sinners, then we will hold out both hands, will we not, to proffer them all free allowance of changes that we lawfully can.

In practical matters we will only want to insist upon honest loyalty to the Prayer Book. In doctrinal matters, upon adherence to the "semper ubique, ab omnibus" of old Vincent of Lerins.

But within the limits of loyalty and Catholicity let us give large liberty: and that not in the semicontemptuousness of mere good nature, but in the generous courtesy of a loving heartedness that thinketh no evil, and a wise mindedness that knows there may be truth taught and good done outside our Jewery.

God help us all, Clergy and Laity, to be proud that our Mother, the Church, is indeed free, and to [9/10] be willing and glad that she shall give to her children all consistent freedom. Rightfully and sturdily we may each stand up for our own view of truth. No harm in that. Only we are to see to it that we yield ungrudgingly to others the rights claimed by ourselves. And if schools of thought, or parties in the Church, in acts of worship or legislation are seen moving into bitter conflict, be it ours to press along side and in the spirit of Moses say: "Sirs, ye are brethren: why do ye wrong one to another?"

The Mother who is free, is Mother of us all. "Us all." "Our Father," said the dear Lord, teaching us to pray. "Us miserable sinners " says the beseeching Litany and the precious Prayer Book on many a page. The Mother of us all." Limits are not set here: And she in mother love, and with the generous graciousness of a Queen asks not for limits, we may be sure.

Brethren, may we not take some limiting fences down? Fences with wire lightly drawn and barbed at that? Grant to me the validness of lay baptism--I claim it--and why are not all those baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost by that act received in the Savior's freely provided Sacrament, to be loved children in the Savior's own Church?. If this be Catholic membership, whatmillions, here in America are in the Catholic; Church!

[11] Grant to me that no one is a condemnable heretic--I claim this to be so who has not determined by refused consent and conformity to the one old Creed, the Apostle's or the Nicene, and why are not Christians of other names than ours round about us staunch adherents of the Catholic faith? If this be Catholic belief, American Catholic believers are millions too.

If penitence for sin, and holiness of life, and unselfish devotion to other souls, and loyalty to Holy Scripture, and undying trust in the mercies of the blessed Lord, and untiring effort to walk the way of His foretreading footsteps be marks of a true discipleship--I claim them so--then are Methodists, and Presbyterians, and Congregationalists, and Baptists, and others, by multitudes on multitudes, walking in the way appointed, true disciples of their adored Master, and true children, though they may not know and count the truth to all its fulness, of their own mother, the Catholic Church.

May we not draw such thoughts, and with deep thanks, out of the words, “the mother of us all?"

I do not mean that we are to be one whit wanting in the staunchest Churchmanship. But only that we be full of the abundant and affectionate and allowance making charity that goeth with it.

To the Roman Catholic, saying: We esteem you that you keep the faith and the order. We thank [11/12] you for the mighty work for Christ you have done, especially in the early and middle ages. We love the saintly characters that shine on many a page of your venerated history. But we must withstand you--St. Paul withstood St. peter. We must withstand you in behalf of the truth, and oppose unyieldingly your unauthorized additions to the faith; your unlawful requirements for Communion; your political machineries and ambitious aggrandizements built into your polity.

To the Christians of other names near: Dear friends, we do not want to be Pharisees of the “We are holier than thou” sort. Before God we know how much nearer to Him some of you now are than we, and how much brighter a crown not a few of you shall wear bye and bye. We esteen and love you for your goodness. We want to rate you rightly and righteously. We see how many you save from sin and lead to the right. We know you are with us in the Catholic Church. God bless you all. But you would be helped in the depth and wholesomeness of your best spiritual life by our valid ministration of the precious Holy Communion. You would fortify yourselves and guard the generations in their preservation of the true faith, and of Holy Writ, and of the perpetuity of the Church’s Sacred offices, if you had our everlastingly iterated Creed and our Apostolic ministry. These we hold in trust for [12/13] you. These we shall be glad to give to you. Meanwhile, dear Christian friends, we humbly and lovingly thank you that you have done so much--more than we--to make our own loved country the Christian land it is, and that you have so unselfishly rescued and guided into the ways of holiness and peace so many precious souls for the Church who is the mother of us all. By the sand glasses of man the time is not yet for full Church Unity. In the beating of the patient pendulum of God, I may avouch it not far off. Will we not also patiently wait, one in heart, and with one faithful united resolve. "For Zion's sake will we not hold our peace, and for Jerusalem's sake we will not rest until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth."

My brother, through our voices God calls you to the apostleship. By our hands this day you are to be commissioned thereto. Apostle is but Greek, you know, for missionary. What it is to be a missionary you have counted years ago, you shall count it the more if God spares your life, in years to come. It's a great Diocese you are to work in. It has had a great missionary Apostle at its head for 27 years. You are to be both Aaron and Hur to stay up his hands. For with them upstayed the battle will go well. And with the fresh vigor of younger life upon you, you are to do much missionary work yourself.

[14] Speak to souls that are sinning and must die, Count all faithfull Christians brethren and ask their help. Be large minded. Be loving hearted. You cannot more warm the heart and delight the soul of your mother, the Church, than by being so. Stand sturdily true to your colors. Never consign to any darkness nor limn with any vagueness the Church's claims and excellences. But count as inside the Church multitudes who may not exactly understand they are there. Then with the touch of the finger of love win there to be thankful, that they are in the mother's family and lead them to lay hold on privileges as yet neglected.

The sinning and outcast ones--Be you their loving chief pastor always. No partaker of their sins; God forbid. But always a loving and helpful friend to them. The Church minister--be he Bishop, priest or deacon,--as the ambassador of the Merciful Master, is always bound to be the friend and helper to poor sinners. Man made ministers may neglect them to serve only pew owners and formula accepters. But you and I and all the Church's commissioned ministers must take care how we dare do that. How beautifully the words put it that you are soon to hear "Hold up the weak, heal the sick, bind up the broken, bring again the outcasts, seek the lost."

Coming out from a past of close association; [14/15] going into a future of like grave responsibility, you and I stand together now for a few moments of hesitancy, the listening ears will forgive us a little personal allusion.

My brother, you've been Sunday School boy, classical pupil, Parish School teacher deacon, presbyter, chaplain, missionary with me. Eleven years ago this very day you were ordered priest by me, in St. James Church, Deer Lodge, Montana. Do you remember it all? My heart is as a father's full of yearning over you this day. Your own congregation, in a neighboring city to the North is moved to the quick, I know. I do not deny the abounding affectionate esteem of their fresher loyalty and love. Voices are broken among them, and eyes are moistened, and hearts are aching sore that you can be their immediate pastor no more. Yet in their sadness, they are proud and glad. But even more than they, I must modestly claim it, am I touched in the deepest and tenderest heart depths at thoughts of our lives, yours and mine, and how they have been closely and lovingly intertwined, and how true you have been in all those 24 years now numbering themselves the past.

The future. The Episcopate is only a larger pastorship. The pastor, anywhere, way help to turn many to righteousness. Blessed be he then. He may preach to others and be himself a cast away. Some of us in our infirmities, selfishness, and sins feel keenly how that may be true.

[16] It is the greatest honor on earth to be a Bishop; a successor of the Apostles: a chief Ambassador of the Master. But if great and loving service go not with it, it will be a cankered eating curse to the holder, in the day of stewardship.

Be great in duty; great in loving service; great in patient and watchful helpfulness, my brother, and let honor take care of itself.

But I delay the solemn service. It is a father's blessing I send forth upon you. It is a brother's fervent prayer I put up for you that the coming anxieties and troubles of your Bishop's life (they'll come--thick multiplied ones at times as yonder men can tell you) may be only "the trial of your faith that it be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." It is an earnest God speed of an old friend that I bid you on your way of duty to your haven of rest;--Even to the HOME where we would be, and where with God's loving mercy in Christ, to us poor sinners, we hope to be, when work is done.

"O mother dear, Jerusalem
When shall we come to thee?
When shall our sorrows have an end
Thy joys when shall we see?"

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