The Fortieth Anniversary of the Foundation of the Parish of Christ Church, of Elizabeth, N.J., 1893:
A Sermon Preached by the Very Rev. Eugene Augustus Hoffman, D.D. on Easter Day, April 2nd;
And a Sermon Preached by the Rev. Henry H. Oberly, M.A. on Low Sunday, April 9th.
Elizabeth, New Jersey: Printed by Order of the Vestry, 1893.
“This is the day which the LORD hath made:
We will rejoice and be glad in it.”—PSALM cxviii. 24.
THE Psalm from which these words are taken is the last of those (beginning with the 113th) which composed the greater Hallel, and was sung by the Israelites at every celebration of the Paschal feast. It was probably used at the first great Feast of Tabernacles, described in the book of Nehemiah, held in the second Temple after its consecration, when priests and levites, Israelites and proselytes, with trumpets and shawms, joined with heart and voice in giving “thanks unto the LORD, for He is gracious: because His mercy endureth for ever.”
It is also one of the proper Psalms appointed by our Church for Easter Day; and it is as appropriate for it as if it had been specially composed to be sung at the annual commemoration of our LORD’S rising from the dead. Opening with a striking invitation to all nations, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, to “give thanks unto the LORD, for He is gracious; because His mercy endureth for ever,” it proceeds to sing His praises in words which, though partially applicable to the Church and to the individual, can only find their full meaning in the LORD Jesus Christ. Throughout the whole of it we find, as even the Jews admit, constant [3/4] allusions to the Messiah and His triumphs over all the enemies of truth and righteousness. His enemies—the enemies of salvation—came about Him like bees; but like bees, they only perished themselves, leaving their stings behind them. This day is the Scripture fulfilled, “I shall not die, but live,” for “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.” “Death hath no more dominion over Me. I hold the keys of hell and of death, and therefore when I overcame death, by rising from the dead, I opened the gates of heaven to all believers.” “This is the Stone,” the tried stone, the precious cornerstone, which, as S. Peter testifies, “was set at naught by the builders, and is become the head of the corner.” Like that great stone, for which, according to the Jewish legend, no place could be found in the wall of the Temple, until at the close of the work it rested on the wall as the head cornerstone, crowning the whole building. That these words apply to Him, and to His rejection by the Scribes and Pharisees, there can be no question, for our LORD Himself said unto them, “Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the LORD’S doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes”?
This is the day on which Christ rose from the dead, the day which brought salvation to our race and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers, the day which has changed the chronology of the entire world. “This is the day which the LORD hath made; well may we rejoice and be glad in it,” saying, as children say to themselves, “This is the great [4/5] and wide sea,” as if trying to take in the thought; or as a traveller in foreign lands may say to himself as he enters Rome, “This is the Eternal City.” “This is the Day”—the day of days, the feast of feasts—which the LORD hath made for His redeemed, when Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us.
“O day of days! shall hearts set free
No ‘minstrel rapture’ find for thee?
Thou art the Sun of other days,
They shine by giving back thy rays.
“Enthroned in thy sovereign sphere
Thou shedd’st thy light on all the year:
Sundays by thee more glorious break,
An Easter day in every week:
“And week-days, following in their train,
The fulness of thy blessing gain,
Till all, both resting and employ,
Be one LORD’S Day of holy joy.”
But with all this, the joy of Easter is very different from the joy of other feasts. It is a sober, meditative joy—the reward of labor and toil undergone for the sake of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. It is the joy of ransomed sinners. It is the comfort of those that have mourned. It comes through suffering, and has been purchased with blood. To have any reality, it must be based upon a godly sorrow for those sins which nailed the Redeemer to the Cross.
The LORD is risen indeed to-day, and hath appeared, but to what kind of persons? First, to a mourning penitent, a restored daughter of sinful Eve, Mary Magdalene, whose devoted love kept her the last at the Cross, and brought her the first to [5/6] the tomb. Then to the little company of Galilean women, who of their abounding charity had taken of their small store to purchase sweet spices to perfume His dead body. Then to Peter, the chief of penitents, whose bitter tears secured this peculiar blessing. Then to the sad disciples at Emmaus, to whom He was made known in the breaking of bread. And, lastly, to the bereaved Church, assembled in that upper room., and waiting in Apostolic fellowship for His appearing
The joy of Easter Day is a joy which lifts the dark shadow from the graves where our beloved sleep. Hence the Easter Anthem sings of life, but only through the grave and gate of death. As we draw near with the holy women to see where Jesus lay, we find the damp, dark tomb, which but yesterday was the symbol of corruption, to-day fragrant with the sunshine of the resurrection. No longer a mere charnel-house, but the resting-place of the Christian pilgrim as he waits for the summons to enter within the gates of the Holy City.
And, lastly, the joy of Easter Day is a joy that will forever fill the skies. Thither has He, who is our Elder Brother, already gone. There He waits to welcome all that believe and die in Him and rise again to everlasting life. “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” “For the LORD Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the LORD in the air: and so shall we ever be with the [6/7] LORD.” Therefore we go forth from this house of prayer to-day, though it be to return to a life of suffering and sorrow, comforting one another with these words, “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept,” knowing that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” And therefore we can lead the way to the open grave, whither we are bearing some beloved one, with the consoling words, “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the LORD; “and hear as it were from the departed the triumphal reply, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold and not another.” Well then may we exclaim, but oh! with how much’ fuller joy than the psalmist ever dreamt:
“This is the day, which the LORD hath made:
We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
The day, however, brings with it to this parish an additional joy as the anniversary of its foundation. Forty years ago on Easter Day, when the evening was come, there gathered at the call of the rector, in the small Sunday-school room which ran along the east end of the old S. John’s church, a little band of devout churchmen, just enough legally to organize a second parish. It was a larger venture of faith than many realize to-day. In common with the other parts of the State, the old borough of Elizabeth—or, as it was then called, [7/8] Elizabethtown—had been settled by those who were firmly attached to the Presbyterian faith. The Church in New Jersey was then but a feeble, weak body, and during the early years of the century was compelled to struggle for its very existence. The most encouraging word which faithful, patient Bishop Croes could speak to its annual convention was, “Brethren, let us thank God and take courage that we have lost nothing since we last met.” And even when the late great-hearted Bishop Doane was elected in 1832, surprise was expressed that such a man should think of accepting the bishopric of a State in which “the Church had been dead and buried for twenty years.”
In 1853, when this parish was organized, Elizabethtown had a population of less than 4,000 persons. The religious element of the community, as in the State, was very largely Presbyterian. They had three large, flourishing congregations, ministered to by beloved pastors of marked ability. The old church, with a feeble, struggling mission at the Port, was all that represented the churchly element. Although it had been enlarged in 1840 to a building forty-five feet wide by sixty-six feet long, and had enjoyed for twenty years the faithful ministry of the Rev. Richard Channing Moore, it had only a small congregation. It numbered less than one hundred communicants, and the total amount of its offerings reported to the convention for the preceding year was but six hundred and thirteen dollars and sixty-three cents. All honor to those who in their day and generation kept the Church alive under such circumstances! It was the day of small things, when it required no [8/9] little courage to assert the Church’s claims. Christmas and Easter sermons were frequently but apologies for the observance of those days. Churches properly arranged for our liturgical services, as we have them now everywhere, were well-nigh unknown. In S. John’s, following the pattern of the lowest Erastian period of our Mother Church, the east end was occupied by the old “three-decker” arrangement; the pulpit surmounting the reading desk, which was furnished with a large Bible flanked on either side by a quarto prayer-book; while a marble shelf with a large cushion on each end, and surrounded by a semicircular railing, was all that was provided for an altar. The church was opened only for services on Sunday, and a lecture on one evening in the week, with the Holy Communion once a month. Chanting was confined to the two canticles in the morning and evening services; and these, with one of the old metrical versions of the Psalms and two or three verses of a hymn from the very limited hymnal, were all that was musically rendered. Nor was this peculiar to S. John’s. It simply followed in these things the general custom of the Church in that day. A vested choir, with a choral service, was not to be found in the country; while to have chanted the Te Deum, or the responses to the Commandments, would have aroused an immediate protest from the congregation. When they were first attempted in this building, several years later, they were the occasion of an indignant remonstrance from the vestry to the rector. Even after Bishop Odenheimer’s consecration in 1859, a simple choral service sung at the opening of the Diocesan Convention in Grace [9/10] church, Newark, aroused a storm such as has been seldom witnessed in so grave a body. About this date, a beautiful bunch of calla lilies, which a devout parishioner on Easter morning had reverently placed in the font of a neighboring church, was thrown into the street before the service began by one of the zealous wardens; and your preacher the same clay received a letter from one of his leading vestrymen urging him to remove a small bunch of flowers (the first that had been seen in this chapel) which a loving woman had placed upon the credence shelf. In the same spirit, when a small wooden cross was placed on the gable of the parish school-house, it was wrenched from its place and broken to pieces, before it had been there twenty-four hours. Is it to be wondered at that in such a period, church architecture was almost an unknown art? Even Bishop Hobart printed a pamphlet with illustrations, recommending to those about to build churches, what has been called “the three-decker arrangement,” already referred to, of pulpit, desk, and holy table. And the architect of Trinity church, New York, it is said, was compelled, in order to secure its present limited chancel, to erect it without authority in the summer months, when the vestrymen were out of town!
It is difficult for us to-day to realize that such a condition of things existed in the Church in this country less than forty years ago. But it must be recalled in order to understand the venture of faith made by the founders of this parish, and the marvellous advance in all that appertains to the reverence, dignity, and beauty of the public services which has been gained everywhere during that period.
 With such surroundings, the little band of churchmen, supported by a few devout women, whose study of the revival, which had then recently taken place in the Church of England, had placed them in advance of their time, gathered on Easter evening, 1853, to organize a parish on principles then so little known, though now so generally recognized. They set out (as stated in the rector’s first annual address) resolved, with reliance on GOD’S blessing, to erect a house where to the poor the Gospel might be preached, the blessed terms of salvation constantly proclaimed, the sacraments of the Gospel duly administered, and the daily sacrifice of prayer continually offered: to gather around the house of God those institutions which make the Church doubly blessed, and exhibit it to the multitudes who dwell about it as the Divine fountain whence flows out all that ministers to their temporal and spiritual necessities—a building where the lambs of the flock might be brought up in the nurture and [11/12] admonition of the Lord, a house of refuge for the Magdalen and the penitent, a home for the orphan and infirm, and a dwelling for one or more of the priestly line, who should go out day by day into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in the poor and the maimed, the halt and the blind. These were the principles to which they pledged their hearts and hands; these the works which in faith they then began, and which we are here to commemorate to-day. [At this time there were but four churches in the State which had daily prayers, viz.: S. Mary’s, Burlington, with Grace church, Christ church, and the House of Prayer, Newark. The weekly Communion was only celebrated in the last three. In this connection the following extract from a letter of the Rev. John Talbot to the secretary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, dated in Burlington, N. J., 1724, will not be without interest: “. . I preach once on Sunday morn, and Catechize or Homilize in the afternoon. I read the prayers of the Church, in the church, decently, according to the order of Morning and Evening Prayer, daily through the year, and that is more than is done in any church that I know, apud Americanos. . . . I have commonly the Sacrament administered once a month, and at the great feasts two or three days together.”—HISTORY OF THE CHURCH IN BURLINGTON, by Rev. G. M. Hills, D.D., p. 189.]
At this meeting two wardens and seven vestrymen were elected, not one of whom is now living. [The names of the wardens and vestrymen are as follows: WARDENS. Benjamin Williamson. Charles Howard Edwards. VESTRYMEN. John Joseph Chetwood, Treasurer. Cornelius L. King. William M. Whitehead, M.D., Clerk. Henry S. Hayward. William C. Dayton. Edward Mayo. Francis Barber.] On the 5th of April, your preacher to-day, then in deacon’s orders and a missionary at the Port, was unanimously called, by the advice of the bishop, to the rectorship. On the second Sunday after Easter, services were begun by the rector-elect in the lecture-room of the First Presbyterian church, which was most kindly placed, by the Rev. Dr. Murray and his Session, at the disposal of the new congregation until it secured a building of its own. On the 23d of April, the parish was duly incorporated under the name of “The Rector, Wardens, and Vestrymen of Christ Church, in Elizabeth Town.” At this time there were connected with it only twenty-five communicants and forty Sunday-school [12/13] children. The services at first attracted but a small attendance—forty or fifty persons usually comprising the Sunday morning congregation—few persons caring to cast in their lot with a parish avowing at the outset churchly principles so far in advance of the times, whose rector did not hesitate to preach in his surplice and to make a collection every Sunday morning, with the use of the Prayer for the Church Militant. But from the outset it was determined that we would have a church patterned after the Prayer Book in all its parts—no more and no less.
Considerable difficulty was for a time experienced in securing a lot in a central location sufficiently large for a church, chapel, and rectory. The mere fact that a magnificent elm-tree (which one of the vestrymen who had been born in the town could not bear to see cut down) stood in the centre of the lot on the south-westerly corner of Broad and Grand Streets, alone prevented the adoption of that site, which would have proved a most unsuitable location. The ground now occupied was purchased on the fourth of July, and plans procured from Richard Upjohn, architect, for a fine church, with tower and spire on the corner, a suitable rectory, and a parish building which could be used temporarily as a chapel, and then, by adding another story, be converted into parish, Sunday-school, and other rooms, so necessary for the work of a live parish. Will it seem out of place for me to express the earnest hope that the original plan, which Bishop Doane characterized as “truly grand,” may still be carried out, and the corner lot of this noble site be occupied by a church that will be an ornament to the city as well as the pride of the congregation?
 The cornerstone of the building in which we are now assembled was laid by Bishop Doane on the 23d of August, less than five months after the organization of the parish. Ten days later the parish school for boys was opened under the, charge of the Rev. James Adams, and steps taken to erect the wooden school-house which still stands on the adjoining lot. Thus early did the people of the parish recognize the fundamental fact that the only way to carry out thoroughly the Gospel plan of evangelizing the world is to bring the children up “in the nurture and admonition of the LORD.”
On the 13th of July, 1854, the building was dedicated as a chapel school-house, with a special service set forth for the occasion by Bishop Doane. He was assisted in this service by Bishop Wainwright, of New York. It was the last time that these two bishops, who loved each other as David and Jonathan, ever met on earth. The beautiful stone altar, the font, the windows, and other sacred appendages, all of which were the offerings of individuals, were carefully designed so that they could be transferred to the church when it is built. On the afternoon of the same day the corner-stone of the stone rectory was laid by Bishop Doane, the congregation thus testifying that, while setting apart a building for holy worship, they were not unmindful of the comfort of those who were to be called to minister In it. The next day the rector was instituted, and then began the saying of daily morning and evening prayer, with three services on each Sunday, at one of which the children were always publicly catechized. In the following January the second parish school—that for girls—was opened. And in [14/14] Advent, 1858, the way having been prepared by careful instruction, there was established the weekly Eucharist, which is not only the complement of the daily prayers, but the one act of the Church’s worship instituted by our LORD Himself as the keynote of all our prayers, from which they take their tone, and in which their meaning and efficacy are most fully developed. And so began in this building the full round of services, which fill the rolling year with the memorials of our Incarnate LORD, and which—God’s Holy Name be praised!—have continued to this day.
Of course, these things had to be established, at such a time, by those who had unshaken faith in the Church’s divine order, and in the face oftentimes of bitter opposition. A few who had joined us without counting the cost, when the popular clamor arose, went back and walked no more with us, The system of free churches, which we had advocated, was ridiculed in the leading church review as something which posterity would catalogue with other exploded dreams of the nineteenth century. A little manual, prepared for the use of those who received the weekly Communion, was characterized by a prominent Church paper as unworthy of review, because such a custom would never be known in this country! The doctrine of the Sacraments and the claims of the Church, which are generally acknowledged now to be found in the Book of Common Prayer, were then derisively spoken of (it was shortly after the defection of Newman) as Newmania on the soil of New Jersey. While the young rector—who only preached and practised that which he had been taught by such men as Wilson and [15/16] Turner, Ogilby and Haight, in the old seminary on Chelsea Square, and which he still preaches and practises without any variation or change—was then denounced as a Jesuit in disguise, and gravely described, in a carefully written volume, as one whose teaching was as far removed from Protestantism as it was possible to be and yet remain in a Protestant church.
But none of these things moved the little flock. Firmly and fearlessly did they stand, like an anvil when it is beaten upon, amid the difficulties and discouragements they had to encounter. Never did a Rector receive a more loyal and loving support than your preacher from his parishioners. I can, in my mind’s eye, replace them all at this moment, as they appeared Sunday after Sunday in their seats on either side of yonder nave. Many of their names are to be found among those distinguished in the annals of the Church and of the State. [Among them were the Daytons, Chetwoods, Jelfs, Ogdens, Mayos, De Harts, Lawrences, Kings, Barbers, Haywards, Williamsons, and Halseys.] Alas! that only a little remnant, less than a dozen all told, are left to join with us in our commemoration to-day.
Let us who remain, while we are reminded of the noble works that they did in their days, recall some of the things which, by God’s blessing, on the Church’s methods, have been promoted by this parish, that we may to-day give thanks unto the LORD, and praise Him for His goodness which endureth for ever.
In the first place, this parish has proved, what [16/17] most men then doubted, not only the advantages but the practicability of the free church system. In a community where it was predicted from the start that it would never succeed, even its friends looking upon it with considerable mistrust, it has been made, by God’s blessing, a complete success. “The rich and poor have met together before the LORD, who is the maker of them all.” And how often there may be seen in this church the beggar and the rich man kneeling side by side at the altar rail, as heirs together of the grace of life, you need not be reminded here. While obeying the Apostolic injunction—” Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as GOD hath prospered him”—enough has been supplied, not only for the current requirements of the parish, but liberal offerings have been made from time to time for the charities of the Church at large.
In the next place, we have lived to see the daily prayer and weekly Eucharist—in which, at one time, this parish stood almost alone in the United States, even though they were undeniably of Apostolic practice and provided for in our Book of Common Prayer—spreading throughout the Church, and becoming, thank God, recognized as an essential part of the spiritual life of well-ordered parishes.
And, lastly, we have cause to rejoice, not only at the wonderful growth of the Church in this city and State, but in the country at large, the ratio of increase being much greater than that of population. [In New Jersey they were, in 1853, but fifty clergymen of our Church actively engaged in work, of whom only seven survive; to-day there are more than two hundred. Then there were but fifty-seven parishes and missions, where now there are two hundred and sixteen. Then the Church in this city had only one hundred and twenty-eight communicants: to-day she has about twenty-five hundred; so that, while the population has increased ten-fold, the communicants have increased twenty-fold. In the United States during the last forty years, while the population has increased about three fold, the communicants of the Church have increased six fold and the contributions ten fold. Public Opinion, a well-known journal, recently gave the following statement: A good showing is made by the so-called Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. Over 4,000 clergy, 500,000 communicants, and nearly 2,000,000 baptisms, over 100,000 confirmed, this is a very fair result in the way of increase during the year. Besides, there are nearly 500 candidates for Holy Orders, and the records show an increase of income amounting to $2,000,000. The general growth of the Church far exceeds proportionately that of the population at large, or of any other religious section of it in particular. It looks like the “Church of the Future.”] The great principles which the founders [17/18] of this parish strove to make its peculiar features—the daily worship of the sanctuary, invested with the beauty of holiness; the weekly and festival sacrificial memorial of His precious death and passion, which the LORD commanded us to make the centre and crown of our worship; and the full development of all the means and appliances appertaining to parochial organization—in little more than a generation we have seen triumphantly acknowledged everywhere. The heart of the nation is beginning to yearn more and more for the Catholic faith of the Church of the living God. From all sides there comes up the longing cry for the unity, stability, and sobriety, combined with the liturgical worship and full sacramental grace, which alone can be found in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Our duty is simply to be true to the vows of our baptism. To stand before the world as not ashamed to confess the faith once for [18/19] all delivered to the saints; manfully to fight under its banner against sin, the world, and the devil; and to continue Christ’s faithful soldiers and servants unto our lives’ ends. Then will the world recognize that God is with us of a truth, and that we are not unworthy descendants of those who planted Evangelical truth and Apostolic order on the shores of the New World.
Beloved brethren, I have already trespassed too far upon your patience; but let me, in conclusion, exhort you, with the rejoicings of this day, to remember the great work which still remains for you, as lay members of this parish, to do—a work that will stand the test of the purifying fire, which shall try every man’s work of what sort it is, and a work that will secure, to each and all, the approval of the King of kings when He receives His own with the welcome summons, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” for “inasmuch as ye have done unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” Say not that, as laymen, you have done all, when you have given of your abundance or of your poverty to the Church and to charity. Giving, though a blessed duty and privilege—for “it is more blessed to give than to receive”—is by no means all a layman’s duty or privilege. In every parish there is work, and more work than all its laymen can do. Under the direction of the priest who is set over them in the LORD, each layman or laywoman owes it to himself or to herself and to the Church, to be a co-worker with Christ, a fellow helper in Christ [19/20] Jesus, in the great and glorious work of the salvation and sanctification of the world. In training and teaching the young, in fostering and encouraging the schools, in going out into the streets and lanes of the city to search and to seek for those who are living in sin and shame, to bring them back to their Father’s house that they may be saved through Christ forever, and in all those ways by which an earnest layman can uphold his pastor’s weary, overburdened hands, there is work—aye, work in abundance—for every man, woman, and child whose heart the LORD has touched with the glad tidings of salvation, and who longs to impart the good news to all within his reach. Thus attesting the sincerity of your faith by your works, you will reflect the spirit of Him who gave Himself for us, and be imbued with a reflection of the fervor of His love, whose meat and drink it was to do His Father’s will, and to go about day after day doing good. And when this spirit has taken possession of your hearts, it will inflame them with something of the ardor of His self-consuming zeal; it will consecrate your time and your means to His service; it will send you out, each in your own sphere, on some errand of love or mission of mercy: and though it crucify you with Him, it will raise you up to reign with Him for ever.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren,” suffer me, in conclusion, to charge you in the words with which the great Apostle closes his unrivalled discourse on the resurrection, “be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the LORD, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the LORD.”
“This is the way, walk ye in it.”—ISAIAH xxx. 21.
LAST Sunday we heard from the lips of the first rector of this parish the story of forty years ago. It was a story so full of strange contrasts, of fierce opposition to matters that never had vital significance, of bitter enmity and firm adherence to principle—a story of circumstances and acts so foreign to our present environment, that did we not know it to be history we would call it ingenious fiction. It was our hope that the second rector would have stood in this pulpit to-day to give the continuation of the history; and then on the following Sunday I might have added the easily and briefly told record of the third rectorate. But God has ordered otherwise. The Rev. Dr. Parker’s health keeps him in distant Colorado, too feeble even to write his share of the history, and it falls to my lot to tell the results of his administration as well as my own.
I have read to you, as a suggestion of the line of thought we are to take, these words from the prophet Isaiah: “This is the way, walk ye in it.” These are not the prophet’s words, but they are quoted by him as a message from the Lord. In this message God recounts His mercies to His Church, and reproaches the people for their [21/22] repeated rebellions and disobediences. For these sins they shall receive, as they have before suffered, punishment; but God will not forsake them. He will not cast them off. He will not even leave them without guides and teachers of divine appointment. No matter how much they err; no matter how far they reject the counsel of God and follow their own imaginations; no matter how much they deserve and suffer affliction—still the Lord will care for them. “And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers; and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”
The Israelites forsook their allegiance to the Lord again and again. They sinned, and were forgiven; they repented, and were blessed. Sometimes they were led astray by the seductions of surrounding heathenism, sometimes by the evil of their own hearts, sometimes by the example or force of their princes. But through all their defections and their penitent returns God never left Himself without a witness. There was always a prophet to say, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” The line of kings failed, but the line of prophets never failed until Messiah came. If there was a Saul, there was also a Samuel; if an Ahab, also an Elijah; if a Herod, also a S. John.
And what the Church of Israel was in fact, that it was also in type of the Christian Church. Christ’s followers have fluctuated between good and evil, and His Church has had her periods of depression and [22/23] triumph. The Church has suffered from an Arius, the heretic, from a Mahomet, the false prophet, from an Attila, “the scourge of God,” from a Philip II., the bigot, and from a Cromwell, the puritan. The Church too has had her prophets, a long line of them, a band of glittering stars, accentuated with names like those of S. Paul, S. Athanasius, S. Anselm, Savonarola, Luther, Laud, Pusey, and De Koven. Each has found his generation wandering in unlawful paths, and each has proclaimed his message, “This is the way, walk ye in it.”
Truth is unique. The right is absolute and single. There is only one way to holiness. God has revealed only one way to heaven, and hence there is only one way to serve God. Consequently there can be but one consistent interpretation of the Church’s formularies of faith, worship, and practice. That varying interpretations have been set forth admits of no denial, and that they have been promulgated with assumption of authority is equally true. It is also true that different branches of the Church have held opposing views on the same subject, and that “prophets” in the same Church have taught contrary doctrines. But the indefectible standard of Holy Scripture and catholic tradition has always remained, and sooner or later a true prophet has arisen to announce the Lord’s message, “This is the way.” Passing by the cardinal elements of the Catholic Church, we remark that each national Church has certain distinguishing features, and others which it shares with the whole Christian family. These common features are as much a part of our heritage as are the creed and the sacraments, and they are as strongly [23/24] emphasized by the Anglo-American Church as they are by any other Church. In the last century, and in the early part of this century, they had, from various causes, become obscured. To such an extent had they been put out of sight by neglect or by intention, that most people stoutly denied their existence, and in consequence held that we were a Protestant denomination, and not a Catholic Church. The Oxford Tractarians were the prophets whom God raised up, and they cried, “This is the way, walk ye in it.”
The cry of the prophets was heard in this city, and a little band of men and women, convinced that the prayer-book revealed a belief, a worship, and a life not practically exhibited here, determined, under God, to found a parish in which the Church’s system should be consistently exemplified. They believed that the creed and the catechism are to be understood in their literal sense; that “sacrament” means, not a symbol, but “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us;” that in the Holy Eucharist the spiritual Body and Blood of Christ are really and truly present under the forms of bread and wine; that in Holy Baptism the soul is really and truly “born again” by a spiritual regeneration; that in Holy Confirmation the seven-fold gifts of the Blessed Spirit are actually given by the imposition of the bishop’s hands; that the declaration in the Ordinal concerning Holy Orders means the apostolical succession in its plainest sense and without reserve; that the Catholic Church is a visible, corporate body.
We have been taught these doctrines from our youth, and it surprises us that people have not [24/25] always seen that they are the plain teaching of the prayer-book. But it was very different forty years ago. Then nearly everybody thought that Catholic and Romish were synonymes, that Baptism was a pious dedication, that Confirmation was “joining the church,” that the Holy Communion was a subjective memorial of Christ’s death, and an act of feeding upon Him by faith in the heart, and that to deny valid orders to. all Protestant ministers was bigotry of the blackest dye. It was an act of heroism for the founders of this parish to do what they did. From the first they meant this to be a Church parish, founded and maintained on Church principles. They defined its character at the outset in a manner that could not be misunderstood; and it is a matter of thankfulness that we are able to say to-day that this character has never been compromised. The parish has never taken a step backward, but has progressed logically and fearlessly from premises to conclusion. Dean Hoffman showed last Sunday that the parish is to-day what it was intended it should be in teaching, worship, and work, and that he teaches now what he taught then without change or modification. His successors have continuously taught the same, and this pulpit has never been stultified by a contradiction. Forty years ago the parish was far ahead of the times. To-day it is abreast of them, because the times have grown up to it. Then was said, and now we say, “This is the way “to holiness and life according as this American Church has received and defined the apostolic rule of faith and practice.
What is this way? It is, first, to accept in its fullest extent the teaching of the prayer-book as to [25/26] the catholic character of the Church, to believe the Faith without reservation and to teach it without compromise; to interpret the rubrics and the canons in their plain sense and to obey them loyally; to model the public worship upon the primitive and catholic pattern set forth by the English reformers—neither Protestant nor Romish.
Secondly, “the way” which we proclaim is to recognize the paramount importance of the sacramental system by “bringing children to Holy Baptism,” by presenting persons for Confirmation at an early age after careful preparation, by insisting upon reception of the Holy Communion as an indispensable condition of salvation equally with Baptism, and by teaching by word and act the grace-transmitting power of the Holy Ministry. Consistently with this position the Holy Eucharist is made the chief service on each Lord’s Day, and is celebrated with the dignity of devotion and the lawful adjuncts of music, lights, ritual, and vestments.
Thirdly, the church is held to be God’s House, and man is merely its custodian. As God’s House it must be free to all His children, and open every day for His worship. On the day the church was dedicated the rule of the daily Offices was instituted, and has been maintained with zealous care. [There are very few obstacles to maintaining daily service that cannot be surmounted if priest and people are in earnest. Enlarging, repairing, decorating, or even cleaning an edifice are often made excuses for suspending services. The church was enlarged in 1870-1871. Dr. Parker writes, “Not a service stopped during the enlargement. The old chancel was torn down on S. Peter’s Day, on which day there were a baptism, a funeral, and a wedding, besides the daily Service and the Holy Communion and Confirmation.” In 1887 the organ chamber was built. During the whole of that summer services were maintained without interruption. A heavy curtain closed the choir arch, and a temporary altar stood before it. The stalls and choir benches. were arranged in the central tower. In 1890 the reredos was erected, a new sacristy and choir room built, and the whole church was redecorated. The church was in the hands of the workmen nearly five months; but again the Offices were said daily, and the Eucharist was offered at a temporary altar in the south transept before the men began work on week-days. For many weeks the church was filled with scaffolding; but the services went on Sundays and week-days. Sometimes the Offices were said in one part of the church, and sometimes in another. Matins was frequently said in the guild room, but Evensong in the church after the workmen had gone.]
This [26/27] is a real free church. The seats are neither owned, nor rented, nor appropriated. Any man, woman, or child who chooses to enter and occupy a place has a right to do so, and we concede that right without question. Whoever comes first has a choice of seats, and whoever comes late must take what he can find. The free and open church is a foundation principle of this parish.
Fourthly, voluntary giving is part of “the way;” and by this term is to be understood free-will offerings in the strictest sense of the words. There are parishes said to be dependent upon the weekly offering, but which are partly supported by fairs, concerts, and various questionable methods of gaining money for religious. purposes. This parish has never nullified its principles by resorting to any such mode of raising funds, nor has it ever soiled -its hands by accepting money gained by a performance of any kind. My predecessor once declined to accept a sum offered to him for the parish, because it was the proceed of an “entertainment.” The continuous teaching has been the apostolic rule, “Upon the first day of the week let every [27/28] one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him” (I. Cor. xvi. 2), and, “Ye shall not appear before the Lord empty; every man shall give as he is able” (Deut. xvi. 16-17).
It is pertinent for us to-day to ask how far the parish has succeeded under the rigid rule of a free and open church, the undiluted preaching of catholic doctrine, and the undisguised practice of “sacramentalism,” as it is called. For convenience of study it is best to break up the time covered by the history of the parish into the periods marked by the three rectorships. [The Rev. E. A. Hoffman became rector in April, 1853, and resigned in June, 1863. The Rev. Stevens Parker became rector in October, 1863, and resigned in May, 1879. The Rev. H. H. Oberly became rector in June, 1879.] This division will be found to be scientific, as the changed circumstances of each period gave it an individual character. For instance, the first ten years under Dr. Hoffman were formative—years when the novel doctrines and strange practices were presented to the people, and the parish firmly settled on its foundations. The next sixteen years, under Dr. Parker, were illustrative, showing the result of Church principles practically applied to parish work. The last fourteen years have been expansive, the battle over, our position recognized, and the parish working freely in winning souls and training them in the higher conception of a Christian life. Each epoch has had its peculiar trials and obstacles to growth. In the first it was ignorance and unreasoning prejudice; in the second it was a silly dread of Ritualism and Romanism; in the third it is popular unbelief and indifference. Yet the growth of the parish has been steady through all [28/29] trials and discouragements. As an evidence of this growth let us take the communicant list. The parish began with twenty-five communicants. At the end of ten years the number had increased to three hundred and fifty-five, showing an average of thirty-three per annum. In the next period the gain was four hundred and two, an average of a fraction over twenty-five per annum. In the third period the gain has been seven hundred and thirty-one, an average of a fraction over fifty-two per annum. Or take the baptisms. For the first ten years the number was six hundred and eighty-two; in the next sixteen years, fifteen hundred and nineteen; in the last fourteen years twelve hundred and forty-two—making a total of three thousand four hundred and forty-three, an average of eighty-six per annum. Such a record as this looks very much like successful labor in spiritual deeds.
Let us see how the voluntary system of finance has prospered. The total offerings in the forty years amount to $305,067.46. Of this sum $141,337.56, or nearly half the whole amount, have been given in the last fourteen years, proving that voluntary giving is not a system that depends upon early enthusiasm. The parish owns property that has cost over $100,000, and which is absolutely unencumbered. It is often brought as a reproach against free churches that they spend all their income in self-sustenance. In our case the facts do not bear out the statement. Our income for the last fourteen years has averaged about $10,000 per annum. Every year we have given away nearly one-tenth. This does not include alms for the poor. In this period over $10,00o have been spent in relieving [29/30] the sufferings of poverty. The people of Christ Church began to give to missions before they had a church in which to worship. In the parish records I find that an offering of $58.42 was made for domestic missions on November 27, 1853, and one of$31.5o for foreign missions on January 8, 1854. [532 SO. BROAD STREET, March 30, 1893. MY DEAR MR. OBERLY:—Will you excuse my suggesting to you that in the 4oth anniversary services in Christ Church mention might be made of the late Rev. W. R. Earle, perpetual deacon, who died not long ago. He not only gave his services as curate, but also gave $50 from his meagre salary as a bank clerk in 1864 towards the $7,000 paid to cancel a mortgage on the rectory. . . . I was treasurer of the fund. . . . I think some mention of his service might not be out of place. Very truly yours, J. F. CABOT.]
It can hardly be necessary to remind you that this is not a “rich parish;” in a worldly sense; and though it has many generous givers, it has none of large means. It is this fact which makes its success as a free church the more conspicuous. My predecessors and I know of a great many cases of generosity from slender means, and it is the spirit of giving in secret to the extent of ability that has been the potent factor in the financial success of Christ church.t Sometimes people put their names for large sums on subscription-lists, where they are “seen of men; “and in these days of indiscriminate publication are printed in the newspapers. “Verily they have their reward.” But the true blessing comes to the “cheerful giver,” to him who tries to conceal his gift, and would hide it even from [30/31] God, if he could, lest he might be thought to he seeking a reward. The principle of voluntary giving is most truly illustrated by the envelope put in the alms-basin, externally blank and internally filled with bank-notes.
This parish has always been rich in workers. Very likely in this respect it does not differ from any other parish of its size and circumstances; but it seems to employ more people than is usual, partly, I suppose, because many of us are convinced that money-giving is not enough, but that there must be personal labor as well; and partly because of the need of workers created by “the way” we walk in. We believe, for instance, that it is a note of a true church that it preaches the Gospel to the poor, and that involves going among the poor. We believe also that the worship of God should be offered with every lawful adjunct of dignity and beauty, and that involves the employment of a good many persons in the public Offices of worship—acolytes, crucifer, choir-men, choristers, readers, servers—and these have always given their service. [Recently a proposition was made that the choir-boys should be paid. The Rector laid the matter before the boys. One of them said, “Why, if we were paid we would not be a volunteer choir! “The decision against payment was unanimous.] The cleaning of the church, the decoration of the altar, the making and repairing of vestments for clergy and choir, and many other matters of a similar nature have always been provided by the women and girls. There is a large amount of work, and no small self-denial behind this short list of needs and duties; and it is a comfort to know that it is always cheerfully done, and [31/32] done from principle. A parish that has such a “way” as this must succeed.
It would be easy and pleasant to proceed in this strain of congratulation as we mark step by step the prosperous growth of the parish; but what would be the use? I fear, dear brethren, that by dwelling upon this theme we might do nothing more than inflate our pride and stimulate our self-satisfaction. When people get hold of a right idea and successfully operate it they will inevitably grow conceited unless they are sanctified by humility. That is a danger that lies very near to us. In God’s providence a good and strong parochial foundation was laid for us by our spiritual ancestors. Upon this basis we, and those who have gone before us to Paradise, have been permitted to build fairly and securely. What we have done is very likely less than they have done, for we have profited largely by their example and labor, and the impetus given in former years has not been exhausted. But unless we continue the work with energy and enthusiasm the transmitted force will fail. Unless we realize our responsibility and act up to it, we will prove ourselves unworthy possessors of a great inheritance and unfaithful stewards of a trust.
And, next, we must ask God to keep us from pride. It is very easy for us to think that because we are avowedly “churchly “in our principles and methods, “because we openly proclaim that “this is the way “and that we “walk in it,” therefore we are rather better than those parishes where pews are rented, and the church closed from Sunday to Sunday, and the Holy Eucharist celebrated only on “the first Sunday in the month,” and all that. My [32/33] dear friends, remember that the measure of your duty is not necessarily the measure of your brother’s duty. There are a thousand possible circumstances that may hinder “churchliness” in a parish. The very fact that we have had exceptional advantages is the undeniable reason why we should be humbly thankful for our privileges, and generous in our thoughts toward those who have not been so blest. Avoid harsh criticism at all times, never be guilty of the habit of fault-finding, and refrain from comparisons.
In the next place, recognize the fact that “the way” in which we “walk” demands from us a course of conduct that shall be an exponent of our position. The people who believe in this “way” ought to be conspicuous for holiness of life, for charity in thought and deed, for loftiness of aim, and for earnestness in work. The world is always critical, and it always takes the measure of a man by his deeds, and never by his profession. It will say to us—and it will have the right to say it.—”Your life is no better than other people’s, and I don’t see any advantage in your boasted way. I don’t see that you give more to the church or to charity because you do not pay pew rent. In fact, I doubt if you give as much as you would if you had to pay pew rent or were asked to put your name on a subscription-list. I don’t see that your frequent communions make you any better than other people, or that you go to church oftener than others, even though your church is open every day and all day.” All that is true: the higher the claim the higher must be the life. A churchman ought to be a more holy man than one whose stand [33/34] and of perfection is that set by the founder of a sect; and he who professes to follow an apostolic rule ought to show an apostolic example.
And, lastly, we are not to think that we have attained the summit of our capacity. We laugh at him who prides himself upon name and pedigree. We feel indulgent contempt for him who is satisfied with the position he has attained either by effort or inheritance or accident. We reverence him who is fired by a laudable ambition to do something better than he has yet accomplished, who feels in his environment an inspiration to noble aims. This parish has not yet fulfilled the demands imposed upon it by “the way “in which we “walk.” The Eucharist must not be weekly, but daily; the Communions must not be numerous at the late Celebration and few at the early one, but the reverse; the attendance must not be large at the Sunday Matins and scant at the Celebration and small at Evensong; . the minimum of “two or three “must not be the measure of the congregation at the daily Offices; Friday must not be shorn of its abstinence and church-going, and filled with social concourse and gayety; the parish treasury must not be habitually empty and the alms fund depleted; the Sundayschool must not be without teachers and the poor without visitors; Lent must not be made to do duty for the whole year in religious observance; the stranger in the church must not be looked at askance, and left to find a seat for himself; “the way “in which we “walk “from Monday to Saturday must not run opposite to that in which we walk on Sunday; and the speech and conduct of one who says “this is the way, walk ye in it,” must be [34/35] plainly distinguished by faith and love and nobility of purpose.
Dear brethren, beloved in the Lord, make this day a day of high resolve. Boast not of what you have done or what has been done for you, but, in all humility and earnestness of intention, appropriate to yourselves those brave words that S. Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi: “. . . That I may win Christ, and be found in Him; . . . that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, .. . if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but .. forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians iii. 8-14).
1853. Easter Day, March 27. Christ Church Parish organized.
April 5. The Rev. Eugene Augustus Hoffman elected Rector.
April 23. Parish incorporated.
August 23. Cornerstone of the chapel laid by the Rt. Rev. George W. Doane, D.D., LL.D., Bishop of New Jersey.
November 27. First offering for domestic missions.
1854. January 8. First offering for foreign missions.
April. Parish school-house opened.
July 13. Chapel consecrated by Bishop Doane, of New jersey, assisted by Bishop Wainwright, of New York. Recitation of the daily Offices begun this day.
July 14. The Rector instituted. Public catechizing every Sunday made the rule.
1858. Advent Sunday. The weekly Celebration of the Holy Eucharist begun.
S. Andrew’s Day, November 30. Saints’ Day Celebrations begun.
1859. Altar cross and flowers introduced.
1863. June. The Rev. E. A. Hoffman resigned the rectorship.
October. The Rev. Stevens Parker became Rector.
1864. Eucharistic vestments and colored stoles introduced.
October 1. Mortgage of $7,000 on the rectory paid.
1870. S. Peter’s Day, June 29. Enlargement of the chapel begun by the addition of choir, transepts, and central tower to accommodate increased attendance.
1871. Easter Day, April 9. Church reopened. Vested choir of men and boys, choral Evensong, and altar-cloths and other hangings introduced.
1875. May 1. Mite Society organized.
1878. Easter Tuesday, S. George’s Day, April 23. The church consecrated by the Rt. Rev. John Scarborough, D.D., Bishop of New Jersey, the debt having been previously paid.
1879. March. The Rev. Dr. Parker resigned the rectorship; to take effect May 1.
Whitsun Day, June 1. The Rev. Henry Harrison Oberly became Rector. Choral Celebrations, and Invocation before the sermon, introduced.
June 12. The Rector instituted by the Bishop of New Jersey.
October 4. Altar Society organized.
November. Guild of S. Elizabeth organized.
1880. Thursday Celebrations of the Holy Eucharist in Lent begun.
October 21. Guild of S. Paul organized. Second and final mortgage of $6,000 on the rectory paid.
1881. Tuesday Celebrations in Lent added.
March 21. S. Paul’s Mission opened.
Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, October 16. Early Celebrations on every Sunday in addition to the late Celebration made the rule. Lay servers introduced.
1882. Easter Day, April 9. Daily Celebrations during Octaves of great feasts made the rule.
Whitsun Tuesday and Wednesday, May 30-31. Diocesan Convention met in Christ church.
June. New organ placed in church.
1883. Thursday Celebrations in Advent begun.
Christmas Day. Silk chasubles introduced.
1884. Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, October 19. Processional cross first used in the morning. Hereafter to be carried at all services when the choir assist. It had been used for several years at the Sunday afternoon service for children.
1885. Mid-Lent Sunday, March 15. Acolytes served first time.
Whitsun Day, May 24. Altar lights introduced.
S. Paul’s chapel built. First service held in chapel on the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, October 11.
November 10. Festival of the Choir Guild of New Jersey.
1886. April 15. Benediction of the new bell. S. Paul’s chapel enlarged.
1887. Septuagesima Sunday. Anthem sung after the third collect at Evensong, and made the rule.
Easter Day, April 10. Benedictus qui venit and Agnus Dei sung, and made the rule for every Sunday.
Organ chamber built. Benediction of the chamber on the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, September 11.
Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, October 16. Benediction of the organ.
1888. Easter Even, March 31. Benediction of memorial stone credence.
Easter Day, April 1. Red cassocks for acolytes and purple for crucifer first used.
Fourth Sunday after Trinity, July 3. Choral Litany substituted for composite service used heretofore on Sunday afternoon.
1889. S. Paul’s chapel enlarged again. Benediction of the chapel on the Third Sunday in Advent, December 15.
Fourth Sunday in Advent, December 22. First Celebration of the Holy Eucharist in S. Paul’s chapel.
1890. Third Sunday after Trinity, June 22. Benediction of memorial stone reredos.
Choir room, sacristy, and library built, and the church redecorated. A painting of the Crucifixion, of life-size figures, over the choir arch.
November 18. Festival of the Choir Guild of the Diocese. Benediction of the new building by the Bishop of New Jersey.
1891. January. First issue of the parish paper, “Christ Church Chronicle.”
May 30. Guild of S. Agnes organized.
All Saints’ Day, November 1. New order for Sundays—Matins and sermon at 10.30 A.M.; Choral Celebration separate at 11.45 A.M.
Third Sunday in Advent, December 13. Benediction of memorial pulpit stairway, with statue of S. John Baptist.
1892. Eve of the Annunciation B. V. M., March 24. Chapter of the Brotherhood of S. Andrew organized.
Celebration every Thursday from Advent to Trinity Sunday, made the rule.
1893. First Sunday after the Epiphany, January 8. Celebration for children at 9 A.M. To be held hereafter on the second Sunday of each month.
Parochial Mission held from January 14 to January 24. The Rev. J. W. Shackelford, Missioner. The clergy and people of all the parishes assisted.
Ash Wednesday, February 15. Introduced daily Celebration in Lent.
Easter Even, April 1. Benediction of picture of the Nativity over the west door of the church.
Easter Day, April 2. Fortieth anniversary of the foundation of the parish. Sermon at Matins preached by the Very Rev. E. A. Hoffman, D.D., Dean of the General Theological Seminary.
1853-54. The Rev. James Adams.
1854-55. The Rev. Franklin Babbitt.
1855-57. The Rev. Joseph S. Mayers.
1857-63. The Rev. William Robert Earle.
1858-61. The Rev. John Martin Henderson.
1861-62. The Rev. John Kerfoot Lewis.
1862-63. The Rev. Ephraim DePuy.
1863-65. The Rev. William Robert Earle.
1865-66. The Rev. Richard Bayley Post.
1880-80. The Rev. Francis Barber Chetwood.
1880-83. The Rev. Harris C. Rush.
1883-83. The Rev. Caleb J. Peace.
1883-85. The Rev. James Ward Gilman.
1885-86. The Rev. Robert G. Osborn.
1886-86. The Rev. Charles March Pyne.
1886-88. The Rev. Arthur Quincy Davis.
1888-91. The Rev. Edward Ransford.
1892-93. The Rev. John Crary Lord.
1893- The Rev. Richard Bayley Post.
WARDENS AND VESTRYMEN FROM 1853 TO 1893.
Hon. Benj. Williamson. Lewis R. Chesbrough. Chas. Howard Edwards. John Whittaker. William C. Dayton. William P. Barber. Henry S. Hayward. Richard Brown. William D. Chetwood. Howard Richards.
John Jos. Chetwood. Lewis R. Chesbrough. William M. Whitehead, M.D. John R. Hoole. George W. Butts. William C. Dayton. William P. Barber (now warden). Cornelius L. King. Henry S. Hayward. John Whittaker. Edward Mayo. George Reton. Francis Barber. Robert F. Hoy. James W. Hayward. Abraham Mills.