PREACHED AT THE CONSECRATION OF
St. Clement’s Church, Philadelphia,
TUESDAY, APRIL 12th, 1864,
E. A. WASHBURN, D.D.,
RECTOR OF ST. MARK’S CHURCH, PHILADA.
To which is prefixed a Sketch of St. Clement’s Church.
KING & BAIRD, PRINTERS, NO. 607 SANSOM STREET.
ST. CLEMENT’S CHURCH,
ST. CLEMENT’S CHURCH was organized in 1855, and incorporated on September 13th, of that year. The following gentlemen were the corporators, and composed the first vestry:
JOHN R. WILMER, CHARLES S. PANCOAST, JOHN LAMBERT, GEORGE H. KIRKHAM, COLIN CAMPBELL COOPER, J. DICKINSON LOGAN, JOHN COOK, and GEORGE W. BIDDLE.
Arrangements were soon made for the erection of the church building. It was projected on a scale of size and beauty which nothing but the westward progress of the population could justify. When the corner-stone was laid, by Bishop POTTER, on the second Tuesday in May, 1856, it was almost in the fields—few houses were near, and a large tract of open lots surrounded the ground which had been secured for the church.
The enterprise was urged with much spirit, and with all the resources that were at the command of the few gentlemen who had undertaken it. But it had its period of embarrassment and delay. The building stood a long time roofless. At last, by a strenuous effort, it was completed; and, on the first Sunday in January, 1859, was opened for Divine service. The sermon on the occasion was preached by Bishop BOWMAN.
The pastor, upon whom fell the burden and heat of the day, and the long anxiety of a most unpropitious period, was the Rev. HENRY S. SPACKMAN, who was elected rector of the parish in 1856, and it was during the period of his incumbency that the church was finished—a success largely owing to his own patient efforts, and the interest [5/6] which his ability and personal qualities had secured on the part of those who had stood by him in the undertaking. This was reward and achievement enough for one brief pastorate.
About four years after the completion of the church edifice, on January 1st, 1863, Mr. SPACKMAN resigned. In the month of February following the present incumbent, then rector of Christ Church, Norwich, Connecticut, was called to the vacant rectorship, and entered upon his duties on Sunday, March 22d, 1863.
ST. CLEMENT’S is one of the largest churches in Philadelphia, and occupies a spacious lot bounded by Twentieth street on the east, Cherry street on the north, and Tower street on the south. The original lot was 114 feet front on Twentieth street, by 157 feet deep, but in the spring of 1863 it was enlarged by the purchase of additional ground in the rear to 193 feet in depth, making an area of 22,000 square feet, protected by the three streets from any future encroachment.
The church is built in the Romanesque style, of Connecticut brown stone, after plans furnished by the late JOHN NOTMAN, who also superintended its erection, and is described by him as follows:
“The chancel, which is on Twentieth street, is an apse, with circular end, finished with a colonnaded arcade on both the exterior and interior. The tower is without buttresses, square and massive, and with the spire, is nearly 200 feet in height. The east end, including the apse and tower, is based on a series of cyclopean courses of stone, gradually diminishing in height to a bonding ornamental string-course, and these set on the wall to an incline inwards, (or battering, as masons technically call this manner of building,) give great expression of strength to this prominent feature of the east end, as is usual in this style of architecture.”
“The interior, clear of the chancel, and the organ gallery in the west end, is 100 feet long by 60 feet broad, and can [6/7] seat comfortably about 1,000 persons. The number of pews on the ground floor is 192.
“The chancel, which, like the aisles, is paved with rich tiling, is 27 feet deep. The height of the church ceiling to the apex of the roof is 65 feet, and the roof is finished with semi-circular braced rafters, open timbered, of highly ornate pattern, and of great massiveness and strength.”
There are at present no galleries, but in the projected modification of the original plan a circular gallery on both sides of the organ gallery is contemplated, which will communicate with the Sunday-school room in the Parish Building, and is intended exclusively for, the Sunday-school children.
The organ was built by J. C. B. STANDBRIDGE, and is an instrument of remarkable sweetness and power.
Before the recent alteration the church was entered by porches on either side, near the west end, opening directly into a transept aisle which crossed the church at about two-thirds of its length. This has since been removed and filled with pews. The entrances to the three aisles are now from a spacious vestibule in the rear, against the north and south ends of which the porches have been placed. This vestibule will be completely enclosed by the three buildings—the Church, the projected Chapel, and the Parish-Building now erecting—to all of which it will be the common entry way. Opposite the three eastern doors, leading into the Church, are as many doors leading into the Parish-Building, and a broad passage opening into the Chapel.
Although the design, now adopted, was not included in the first plan, yet upon the enlargement of the lot and the suggestion of what was desired, Mr. NOTMAN furnished plans for these additional buildings in such perfect unison with the church edifice that their picturesque unity and perfect adaptation to their purpose, when they are completed, will be as creditable to his genius as if the whole had been originally devised.
The Parish-Building is a large structure 84 feet long by 42 feet wide, facing north and south, and built, like the [7/8] church, of Connecticut brown stone. It has two stories, and its walls and the apex of its roof are very nearly as high as those of the church. Its design is, together with the chapel and church, to realize, as far as possible, the idea of a complete church establishment. The church building contains all the usual arrangements for congregational worship. The parish building will be as expressly arranged for congregational work, especially for all that will tend to bring the people together in mutual interest and fellowship.
It is planned and partitioned, therefore, so as to provide for many widely differing objects. Its whole second story will be a spacious and lofty Sunday-school room capable of accommodating 700 children, The rooms below, on the level of the church floor, are for the Parish Library, the Bible Classes, the Sowing Societies, the Infant School, the Night School, and all other forms of parish organization.
Adjoining the parish-building, connecting with it and with the common vestibule, will be the chapel, a separate structure, also of brown stone, like the church facing east and west, with a small apsidal chancel at the east end. It will be 60 feet deep and 30 feet wide, and will accommodate between two and three hundred people.
The contemplated position of this chapel will explain the present position of the beautiful porch of twisted columns, lately removed, and which is so placed as to reach the vestibule by forming a diagonal between the semi-octagonal chancel of the chapel and the south wall of the church.
The church had not been consecrated on account of a debt of over $30,000 remaining on the edifice, $27,000 of which was under mortgage. This whole debt was extinguished in a single year: the greater part in the spring of 1863, and the remainder in the spring of 1864. The ground rent reserved at the purchase of the lot still remains, but a sinking fund for its extinguishment has been commenced.
 This obstacle having been removed the church was consecrated on Tuesday, April 12th, 1864. The following description of the ceremony is condensed, and slightly corrected in some few particulars, from that which appeared in the Episcopal Recorder:
CONSECRATION OF ST. CLEMENT’S CHURCH.
“ST. CLEMENT’S CHURCH was consecrated on Tuesday, the 12th of April.
“The occasion was a very interesting one, and the ceremonies of a most imposing character. Three bishops and nearly a hundred clergymen, the latter mostly robed, were present. They all met first at the rectory, next door to the church, and forming in procession, walked down the south side of the church and entered the porch, where they were received by the wardens and vestry. The bishops and clergy then proceeded slowly up the middle aisle, repeating the 24th Psalm alternately. The densely crowded congregation rose and stood while they passed, the organ sounding a low note.
“Bishop POTTER conducted the ceremony of consecration, assisted by Bishop STEVENS and Bishop LEE, of Delaware. Beside the bishops, there were present, inside the chancel rail, the Rev. TREADWELL WALDEN, the rector of the church, the Rev. HENRY S. SPACKMAN, the late rector, the Rev. J. ANDREWS HARRIS, the late assistant minister, and the Rev. Dr. WASHBURN, of St. Mark’s, who was to preach the consecration sermon.
“Without the rails, on each side of the chancel, was a double row of clergymen; Rev. Drs. LEEDS, of St. Peter’s, DORR, of Christ Church, DUCACHET and RUDDER, of St. Stephen’s, OGILBY, of Trinity Church, New York, the Rev. Messrs. LAMSON, of the American Church in Paris, DANIEL WASHBURN, of Trinity Church, Philadelphia, and a number of others. We were especially pleased to notice the Rev. Dr. BANCROFT, Canon of the Cathedral at Montreal.
 “The participation of this eminent gentleman in the ceremony was particularly gratifying, as embodying the idea of a union of the British and American churches.
“The rest of the clergy who could not find place in the chancel, were gathered in pews reserved for them in the upper part of the middle aisle.
“The ‘Request to Consecrate,’ engrossed on a roll of parchment, with the pendant seal of the church, was now handed to the bishop by the rector.
It reads as follows:
‘WHEREAS, The Rector, Church Wardens and Vestrymen of St. Clement’s Church, in the City of Philadelphia, have erected at the southwest corner of Twentieth and Cherry streets, a building for the public worship of Almighty God, according to the faith and discipline of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America:
AND WHEREAS, They are desirous that the same, being now free from debt, should be consecrated to the purpose for which it has been erected:
‘Now, the said Rector, Church Wardens and Vestrymen as aforesaid, do hereby offer the said building to the Rt. Rev. ALONZO POTTER, D.D., LL.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, for consecration to the service of Almighty God; and reverently ask that it shall be set apart, under the name of ST. CLEMENT’S CHURCH, for the performance of the several offices of religious worship.
‘In testimony whereof, the said, the Rector, Church Wardens and Vestrymen of St. Clement’s Church, in the City of Philadelphia, in vestry islet, have hereunto set their hands, and caused their corporate seal to be affixed, this ninth day of April, in the year of our LORD one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four (1864.)’
TREADWELL WALDEN, Rector.
JOHN LAMBERT, SAMUEL S. MOON, Church Wardens.
J. R. WILMER, GEO. H. KIRKHAM, C. CAMPBELL COOPER, CHAS. S. PANCOAST, HENRY S. LOWBER, J. B. SPACKMAN, P. P. MORRIS, EPHRAIM CLARK, HENRY HENDERSON, HENRY NORRIS., Vestrymen.
HENRY S. LOWBER, Secretary.
 “The bishop then proceeded with the Consecration Service assisted by Bishop LEE; and after the opening prayers, the sentence of Consecration was read by the Rev. HENRY S. SPACKMAN. Rev. Dr. LEEDS followed with the Morning Prayer, and the Rev. Mr. LAMSON announced the proper Psalms from the Psalter, which were chanted by the choir and congregation.
“The First Lesson was read by the Rev. Dr. RUDDER, the Second Lesson by the Rev. Dr. OGILBY, and the Creed and prayers by the Rev. Dr. DORR. After the appointed selection from the Psalms, announced by the Rector, had been sung, the Ante-communion Service was read by Bishop STEVENS, the Epistle and Gospel by the Rev. Dr. DUCACHET. The Consecration Sermon was then preached by the Rev. Dr. WASHBURN, Rector, of St. Mark’s.
“After the concluding prayers and benediction by Bishop POTTER, the congregation dispersed.”
At the close of the services the bishops and clergy returned, by invitation, to the rectory. At this social meeting a general wish was expressed by the clergy that the sermon of Dr. WASHBURN might be published a wish which was cordially shared by the rector and the vestry. A motion to that effect was passed unanimously.
Dr. Washburn having kindly consented, the sermon is herewith given to the public.
In whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy Temple in the Lord.—Ephes. 2: 21.
WE come in the spirit of these words, to-day and always, to the consecration of a church of Jesus Christ. It is in this stateliest image, resting on a real analogy, our apostle sets forth the greatness of the Christian above the Hebrew Temple: a building no longer of dead, but living stones; nay, of growing stones also, as if the creative breath of the Holy Ghost, throbbed in each pillar, lifted each part without hands into its place, and laid all by the law of an inward harmony. We stand in this fair house, where Christian art has brought its choicest gifts: but we worship through the visible symbols Him whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain. And it is indeed to you, my brethren, your growing temple: it speaks to you of the faith, the struggle of your past years; the united zeal of rector and people, that has at last crowned the work; the life more lasting than these walls, that has and shall have now its abiding place. It is good for us to be here. We lay the topstone with prayers and chaunts of thanksgiving; we consecrate it to no common uses, but to the service of God and the communion of a Christian household. We consecrate it forever to the ministry of the word and sacraments. [15/16] We consecrate it to a pure, a reverent, a beautiful worship.
Let us choose then, brethren, a subject kindred with the time and place: and one, which, I trust, shall fire your devotions with a live coal from the altar: the meaning of Christian Worship. Yet it is not merely as an apologist for our forms of prayer or ceremonial that I appear, to repeat the arguments, whatever their worth, in behalf of a Liturgy as a barrier against the inroads of a wild piety, or the badge of our refined taste; but because I believe that there is a larger purpose interwoven with the whole texture. We are more than holders of the formularies of a Protestant. Episcopal body; we are witnesses, living witnesses of the communion of the Church of God, of which we are only a part, and whose unity is the aim alike of our prayers and labours. And may God enable us to know the worth of the rich heritage we keep, and make you a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to Him!
What is worship? What is the worship of the Church of Christ? Let us seek, at the threshold of our argument, clearly to grasp, as it is given in this conception of St. Paul, the connexion of our faith with the outward system. This is the distinctive feature of the New Covenant, that it fixes the mind of believers on the church as a communion of men [16/17] with the unseen Head. The religion of Jesus Christ spake a far nobler truth, than even a devout David could know; for while he believed as well as we in One, who asked no offering or burnt offering unless it were given by the pure heart, yet in that youth of a divine revelation his ideas were centred in the one holy temple, the local Presence. But Jesus Christ turned the thought of his followers from the stately building on Moriah to the Temple, incarnate in Himself; to the Temple of the Holy Ghost, dwelling within redeemed men. In this deep sense we understand His word, that ‘God is a Spirit, and they who worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth.’ There was to be no longer only a Hebrew sacrifice on the holy mountain; but wherever two or three were met in His name, He would be with them. And such is the tone of the apostolic writing on every page, where the same imagery so often appears as we have noted in St. Paul. Ye are the temple of the living God;’ is the Christian principle. We hold fast this principle. We prize this as the ‘reasonable service,’ the service of our reason and our heart, whether it be under fretted roof and on high altar, rise or in the poorest upper room from the Christian congregation.
But it is in this very spirit of our religion we learn the character of true worship. For what does such a spirit demand? What is this large, this living view of the Church of Christ? It is, in St. Paul’s language, [17/18] a building fitly framed together, growing to an holy temple. It is a unity of men, one in Christ and each other, one in a common truth, a common love, a common duty: and its worship is, therefore, the manifested life of such a body. We cannot, then, accept as the meaning of Christ’s command, the notion that our religion, because it asks an inward light, must be opposed to an outward expression. I reverence whatever there is of a deep life in the mystic piety of Fox; I can honour the stern Puritan in his battle against formalism: but the half-truth of both is a whole error, when it leads them to worship the spirit of their own vague fancies, or the idol of a narrow theology. The communion of the living Body of Christ cannot be hidden within the cloisters of the individual breast. Prayer and praise are indeed and must be often the private outpourings of our hearts in our closets; and we must with our Master ‘shut the door and pray,’ if we would have that gift of the Holy Ghost, which enables us to come in faith and penitence to the service of the church. But when we speak of the Body of Christ, we are bound in a larger tie with each other: and when the Lord gave us that prayer, the sum of all petitions, He taught us to say ‘Our Father,’ to fix our thoughts above all personal wants on His kingdom, on our blended hopes, affections, aims, activities. A christian worship is thus no mere outward form. It is outward because it is inward. It is no mechanical act [18/19] or series of acts, which can be separated from the life of piety. It is the necessity of men, when they are one in truth and brotherly love. It is the visible and audible sacrifice of the whole Body. We see its beginning with the first Pentecost, when by the power of the Holy Ghost, there was gathered one household, in ‘breaking of bread and prayers.’ And wherever the Church exists, its worship has thus been lifted with one accord in one place; has had a voice, ‘and that a mighty voice;’ has poured itself through all forms of common speech, and hallowed all rites worthy of its spirit.
We can now, in the next place, understand the chief features of such a worship. It is clear, that communion with Him whose Spirit we invoke, and with each other in our solemn act, is the pervading thought; every portion of the service must aid to blend mind, heart, voice to this one end. But this communion has its variety of utterance. We meet around the altar of our Lord to express all our wants, all our aspirations of faith, penitence, praise, hope, joy. Each has its mode and place. It is in prayer we have the highest form of Christian speech. Praise finds its proper voice in music. There must be the common confession of our faith. There must be divine truth for our minds; and therefore the Word of God must be read, and expounded by His ministers. All these deepen and prepare our hearts for that highest feast of our Christian worship, when we kneel in love at [19/20] the holy table to receive the blessing of the unseen Christ. All these manifold parts of our devotion must have their harmony, as differing notes meet in the perfect chord; and if any do not further the chief purpose of worship, it will mar its true power. Prayer must be simple, free from all studied arts or private fancies; it must be fitted to carry with it the hearts of all, as not listeners, but praying men. The sermon must obey the same law. It must be the earnest exposition of God’s word must suit its subject to the place, the time; must not become the service, but blend as a portion of it with its design to make the hearers worshippers. I have not, in saying this, any sympathy with those, who look on preaching as of little worth, compared with the ritual; and when I hear such critics, I judge them by that apostolic rule they prate of but seldom follow; ‘it is not reason, that we leave the word of God and serve tables;’ when the ministry of Christ is changed to be only a chaunter of prayers, or a Levite, not a prophet, it is debased. The pulpit is, and will ever be, while a Church is living, the tongue of the Spirit. But on the other side, I can never hold with the Puritan, whom Hooker cites, that ‘sermons are the keys to open the kingdom of heaven.’ Let the sermon have its full place, but let it know its real place. No gaudy rhetoric, not even the coldly-finished grace that may please the critical taste, is the power of the preacher, but he must speak as though Christ spake [20/21] by his mouth, with the logic of plain truth, the eloquence of an earnest heart. Thus, again, the music of the Church must be fitted to draw out the voice of the people; but if it be only the ‘performance’ of a few, if it give us instead of devotion only the delight of the ear, the meaning of the Christian chaunt is lost, and we have a sweet mockery. Music has its high sphere as an art; but pure musical effect is secondary here; it must help the great aim of worship. But, lastly, as there is this unity of all the parts of worship, so there must be the union of all worshippers. The minister of Christ does not fulfil their office for the people, but with them. We are one, all one, instinct with one thought; offering one sacrifice; confessing the same sins; praying for the same blessings; uttering one song of thanksgiving; acknowledging one Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the Church is vocal; its worship a holocaust of body and soul on the altar of God.
This is worship. And now, with such a conception of it, we may learn the principle of these services, which we use and love in our branch of the Church Catholic. It is my aim to show, that out of such an inner and living necessity the outward structure has arisen; and if thus as a historic growth we study this marvellous creation of the Liturgy, we shall regard it, in very deed, not as our exclusive Anglican form, but our rich inheritance of prayer and chaunt and creed come down from the ‘ages all along.’ We go [21/22] back a moment to the earliest day of the Christian assembly. We see the believers gathered around the table of the Lord. That feast of the risen Christ was for them the sacrament of their new household life: no formal thing, but the holy Communion of a real brotherhood, in prayer and love and sacrifice and toil. It was out of this central feast that all the after growths of worship sprang: this ‘the Liturgy,’ as it is still called in the Eastern communion; the ‘liturgy,’ as St, Paul speaks, or common ‘offering of faith.’ One by one, as their needs inspired, there arose a series of hallowed uses; the varied parts of worship were grouped about the communion service, in reference to its great design; supplication, thanksgiving, confession of faith, the reading of the Word. Prayers, and devout hymns were caught from the lips of holy men; passed orally from one to another, then written down, until they became incorporated with their Christian speech. Soon followed the daily hours, out of which were shaped our morning and evening prayer; again special Litanies in time of pestilence and war; and by the same degrees there came the cycle of festival and fast, first heralded by the Easter, the dearest symbol to the apostolic Christian of His Risen Lord and risen life. And so the wondrous fabric rose, as that Temple, ‘where neither axe nor hammer nor any tool of iron was heard in the house, while it was in building;’ or as those Cathedrals of a Christian past, where one age reared the nave, another lit the [22/23] chancel with its rich window, another added the side-chapel, and a last crowned the whole with its heavenward spire: the growing stones, the swelling chaunt of generations. We see plainly that this was no artificial mechanism, choking the simplicity of the Gospel, as is said by those who confound its partial defects, or the false abuses of later time with the living principle. It came out of the soul of the Church. And so our fathers kept it, they purged it of Roman vices, but held fast all that was good; more wisely, as we deem, than the Reformers of the Genevan type, they did not pull up the roots that were entwined with the life of the Christian State; they did not make a new worship, for they might as well have hoped to build a grove of cedars of Libanus, but they kept it as a bond of unity, of faith, of devotion.
And such, then, is the spirit in which we keep it. We recognize the uses of such a service to this true end. Christian art, like all art in its pure meaning, is not a sensuous thing; it is based on the deepest truth. A Liturgy is the embodied faith. It witnesses our apostolic lineage. It guards the apostolic creed. For it is not chiefly by books of abstract argument, but by these ties of reverent love, linking our growth from infancy to age with the font and the Lord’s table, Lord’s day and holy day, that our religion sways the heart. Nothing is truer than the saying of an ancient Father, that the doxology kept the faith in the Trinity, more than the Athanasian creed could [23/24] do. The Church of Christ is not a dry fagot of historic chronicles, of theological disputes: it is this worship, real, vocal, yesterday, to-day and forever. The Book of Common Prayer is not a mausoleum of the dead; it is the communion of the living. We are repeating in these collects words, that rose from the heart of saints, and still rise as from a vial full of odours; we sing the Gloria and Te Deum sung by an Ambrose and a Hilary, yet lingering as the familiar tunes of childhood: we say; ‘Lift up your hearts,’ in the same voice that lifted theirs. It may be to those, who have not so studied its design, a ‘frozen music,’ but as we grow more and more into its plan, we see its wondrous harmonies. Take up this liturgical treasure, and study any of its parts in such a view. Read the office of morning prayer. As we stand together in the house of God, the stately sentences invoke on us the Holy Spirit; the confession calls us, knee and heart, to that penitence which only can prepare the way of devotion; the declaration of God’s pardon leads us with a full sense of worship to say ‘Our Father;’ the glad Venite lifts us, and the Psalter, verse answering verse, brings our souls together; the Word speaks from Old and New Covenant; the people with bowed heads utter their one faith in the simple creed that speaks of an age ‘without controversy;’ they listen to the voice of God’s ambassador, and again kneel together in prayer for the whole church militant. And where can we turn [24/25] to any of those varied offices, without seeing the same structure? What so marvellous a blending of faith and penitence and trust and adoration as the Litany? What more perfect in its beauty, if we used it as we should, not as an addition to morning prayer and sermon, but in its own completeness, than the office of Holy Communion? What petitions in the range of human speech so simple, yet so rich and manifold? Blessed be God for this our holy heritage! We have learned these prayers by heart, as children at the family altar, and found fresh, exhaustless beauty in them; we have repeated them each Lord’s day in the communion of our brethren, and carried them to our homes to commune still, although absent, with the saints of Christ; we have felt them in the hour of grief, on the sick bed, and above the grave; and each hallowed word is knit with the sweetest, the undying memories of our Christian years.
Here it is, therefore, that I plant the argument for such a worship. It is not necessary that we should fall into any foolish bibliolatry, as if we held the Prayer-book an inspired or perfect volume; but we ask such a study of its structure, its spirit. It is not our boast that we have a form of worship which may chiefly serve to save us from the extravagances of others, and keep a religion of good taste, of elegant narrowness. If it were only so, I should prefer to such cold piety the most awkward stammering of fervid lips. But it is our blessing, that in the use [25/26] of such a liturgy we have what meets in the fullest way the wants of the whole Body of Christ. We love it, because, above all lesser beauties, it is common prayer; common, in that it joins high and lowly, wise and simple in one bond; speaks to then the same truths, and cheers them with the same promises; says the same word over the baptized child of the poorest laborer as of the richest who craves God’s gift, bestows the same cup of blessing at the altar, the same comfort at the grave; common, in that it knits us to-day with the members of the Church Catholic of all time, with all every where, in the cathedrals of England, or the little chapel of our Western wilds, where Christian hearts lift these chaunts and breathe these petitions; common, in that it so becomes a mother-speech, a universal language amidst the Babel-dialects of to-day, the best safeguard against the private theologies of a myriad teachers, and alike against that Roman falsehood, which turns the prayers of Christ’s people into an unknown tongue. And in this view we claim, that the great purposes of worship cannot be met, without such a language. We reverence every true worshipper of Christ, and can join in every prayer rising from the heart; yet we hold it to be a fact as freely recognized by others out of our communion as by us, that the tendency of much of our modern religion is to lose the spirit of social devotion. What is the popular idea of church-service? Not worship, but [26/27] an entertainment of the ear or the mind, in which the people are little more than listeners. Brayer does not find them kneeling and responsive, but sitting to admire its eloquence, as if it were addressed to them, not by them to the All-hearing God. Pulpit rhetoric becomes the idol of the day; and the plain word of God has not enough of piquancy to please their epicurean palates. It is useless to disguise the evil: it is a disease of the time. When we are told that a liturgical worship is too artificial for a Gospel piety, we will only send you to some modern Christian assembly, where an admired minister dispenses to a silent crowd his brilliant fancies for devotion, and men and women listen enchanted now by his dramatic passion, now by the warblings of a favorite stage-singer, without one common, hearty utterance even of the Lord’s prayer; and we leave you to say, if this be nearer to the pattern of such worship as lifted its voice with one accord in the gathering of the first Christian saints. But we will not indulge in any sharp criticism; rather, we rejoice to know on every hand that many devout minds are feeling this need, in the growth of more reverent habits, the better ideas of Christian art, the revival of directories of worship, and many fairer forms of public devotion; and we hail every such tendency as a proof not only of right taste, but of that unity in aim which may make us one at last in faith and fellowship. Here we can stand and ought to stand [27/28] on the largest ground. We do not claim that our liturgy is the only type; nay, it is one of many such varieties; and as in the early Church, there may be differing forms. We only claim, that all worship, as it fulfils its design, will accept these great, common features; will so blend the minds and hearts of discordant sects in harmony, that they will give up their private confessions, and pour forth the voice of Christian life in one Lord’s prayer, one apostles’ creed, one Te Deum.
And thus at last we can bring before you, my brethren, the truth toward which our whole argument tends. It has been my purpose to show you the true character of our worship as the outgrowth of the Church of Christ. If it be indeed such, then we must breathe into the form the soul of our devotion. If we forget this, we lose its very principle. And let me beg of you to understand that principle in its deepest meaning; for in the misconception of it all danger lies. It is often called our distinction, that we have a book of prayer; but it is a wrong and may be a very mischievous idea. We have a church worship; and the book is only its vehicle. If it be to us merely a book, not a worship; if we prize it as only a marble monument of the past, polished and dead; if we prize it because it is the token of our refined exclusiveness, we change it to that formal thing it is so often called by those who judge it by its abuses. And when I enter one of our fashionable [28/29] churches, and see a people in the presence of God, with the litany that touches every chord of the heart, the stately Psalms of David sounding in their ears, yet bending with fastidious looks over their gilded prayer books, responding in a polite whisper, it is no longer common prayer. That is formality indeed. That is the danger to which we are liable. Let us never forget it while we boast our privileges. What is it we want as a Church of God in this day of real action? The power of the Holy Ghost to breathe into our system a fresher energy; to make it the organ of the living Christ; a bond of real union for those who are seeking something better than this Christianity of severed sects; attracting them by its Catholic spirit; adapted to all the wants of all worshippers; not shackled by a cast iron uniformity, but used as it was meant to be, with a wise and generous fitness: a service that is perfect freedom. I believe it one of the deepest needs of the time, I believe it our noblest work, by our peculiar gifts, if we be true to them, thus to lift a broken Christendom out of its strifes of theology into the fellowship of an apostles’ creed and a common prayer. This is our labor. We should gladly hail every sound method, the needful correction of defects, the addition of special prayers, of fresh hymns that God pours through the mouth of another Ambrose to-day; all that may bring out the capacities of our liturgy, under the guidance of our wisest but living minds. [29/30] This is the union we seek between the spirit and the form. It will not be the substitution of a Christian fancy for a Christian life. We love and prize the creations of sacred art, the fair proportions of the Gothic minster, where arch and clustered pillar body forth the infinite mystery of the faith, to the least detail of its rich symbolism; but let art forget that it is only a mean to an end, let it feed only eye and ear with sensuous beauty, and if it be in the noblest building man has carved, its worshippers may be as dead as the stone saints lying with folded hands upon their tombs, Not such an art is our glory. But let it be this offering of living men, and its influence will be true. What power so great as this communion can exert, if we so make our worship a reality? That vision so inspiring as this of the great congregation, priest and people, old and young, together in the presence of God, kneeling in the same confession; together, with the same flow and ebb of devotion that prompted the Hebrew chant, pouring the “Glory in the Highest,” together uttering, “I believe;” and as it rises like the voice of many waters, their praise blends with the song of the heavenly harpers, who cease not day nor night, saying: “Holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!” This is worship. It bows the heart of those who came in cold indifference, and they say: “This is the gate of heaven.” The Church of God shall be felt to be the house of all His children, baptized into Christ and [30/31] each other; its prayer the “prayer without ceasing” of daily life; its offertory the free-will gift of those “having all things common;” its baptism, its confirmation the right of all, rich and poor, white or black, bond or free; its holy table the emblem of fellowship with Him who is all and in all.
Let us so, brethren, consecrate this temple to the worship of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And may the hand of the Master Builder now rest on it, that it may be in every part, as Christian art designed it, its walls, its font, its altar, its fair proportions the image of the house of living stones! Let it point to the reality: Urbs celestis Jerusalem! I saw no Temple therein; for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the Temple thereof. Thus shall the shadow be fulfilled in the substance. As we look now on the hearts, gathered to-day in gratitude and hope, we see no longer the outward place; we see a people of God; we look forward to all the ties growing and clustering about this sacred ground; those here baptized into the family of love, fed with wisdom and grace, kneeling here to partake the bread of Christ; the penitents listening to his voice, the weary who shall find rest; the poor rich in faith; the children’s children, who shall come hither, when we that now stand in these courts shall have lain down to wait the better resurrection; the Christian holiness, here planted, here cherished, to remain after [31/32] these stones have crumbled into dust;—and now the walls widen, the stones speak: it rises before us, no more a building of man’s hands, but a building of God, eternal in the heavens.