THIS is meant to be a handbook for those who are interested in Confirmation or who are preparing for it.
It is designed to be an outline of the things which a Churchman ought to know.
I have tried as far as possible to avoid theological language and to put things in simple and concise terms which will be in the natural vocabulary of average people.
The emphasis throughout is on the Church. People looking toward Confirmation should be preparing to be Churchmen.
F. E. W.
IN THE spring of 1920 I had a family preparing for Confirmation who lived forty miles out in the country. After instructing my regular class, I dictated the substance of each lecture and sent the typewritten sheets to this family. Later I asked Mr. Frederic C. Morehouse if he would put these summaries into print particularly for my own use. That is the origin of this book. It appears to have been found helpful by many others also--due, no doubt, to the simplicity and informality attendant upon its own creation.
In response to many letters and suggestions I have revised it in a number of minor points and have brought the statistics up to date, together with the chart of organization, though the substance of the book remains in its original form. I am thankful that it has proved useful and am grateful to the many friends who have expressed appreciation of it. May God continue to use it for His Church.
F. E. W.
Ash Wednesday, 1933.
WHAT is the Church? The Church is Christianity organized for service after Christ's pattern.
Indefinite Christian sentiment gets nowhere. It must be shaped and defined. The world could not do business merely on business sentiment. Neither can it be Christian on Christian sentiment. General Church Order and specific organization are required. Church Order remains constant--the organization varies. (Ephesians 2: 19-22.)
2. For Service.
The Church cannot live for itself. It is essentially missionary. It passes on its treasures. It is never a club for the enjoyment of its members. It is a society for service. (St. Matthew 28: 19 and Ephesians 3:8.)
3. After Christ's Pattern.
There are regular and irregular ways of doing anything. Christ did not leave Church Order to any chance organization. He appointed apostles as His accredited leaders and gave them their instructions. They appointed and ordained "deacons" as their assistants. (Acts 6.) They also ordained "elders" and "presbyters" to be pastors of local congregations. (Acts 14:23.) The word "presbyter" was later contracted to the word "priest."
This is the threefold ministry which has continued ever since. The Apostles also consecrated others (II Timothy 1:6) who filled their places after their deaths. At first these were also called "apostles" but later that title was reserved only for the "Twelve" and the others were called "bishops."
These "bishops" consecrated others as the Church grew and these others consecrated still others and so on until we come to our own bishops in the United States today. Our bishops today have their commission from our Lord Himself, coming directly from the apostles straight down the line of other bishops. If seventy-five of those bishops could take hold of hands they would reach from the bishop of this diocese directly to the Hand of our Lord Jesus Christ in Palestine.
This is what we mean by "apostolic succession." The operating organization depends upon national and local requirements.
St. Paul describes the Church as the body of which Christ is the Head. (I Corinthians 12: 12.) While it is organized, it is more than an organization. It is not made up of separate parts joined together; it is a growth from the seed which Christ planted. People do not "join" it; they are grafted into it and become part of its life.
The Nicene Creed says it is one (Christ established only one Church); Holy (of the same character as its Head); Catholic (universal); and Apostolic (descended from the apostles) .
The Church in the beginning had four marks (Acts 2:42):
1. The apostles' fellowship.
2. The apostles' doctrine.
3. The breaking of bread.
The first meant worshipping and receiving the sacraments with the apostles then; it means worshipping and receiving the sacraments with the descendants of the apostles today. The second meant the teaching of the apostles then; it is comprised in the Apostles' Creed now. The third meant the Holy Communion then; and it means the same thing still. The fourth meant united worship then; it means public Church services today.
The Episcopal Church has kept all four marks of the Apostolic Church. It is Christianity organized for service after Christ's pattern.
THE Church began its work in Jerusalem. Gradually it spread through the whole Roman Empire. For three hundred years it was under persecution and often was obliged to exist in hiding. In the year 312 A. D. the Emperor Constantine became a Christian, and from that time on the Church could work openly.
For at least two hundred years the Church was troubled with several corruptions of the Gospel which were settled at the General Councils of the Church. There were seven of these General Councils, all held in the East.
Meantime in the West the Bishop of Rome was becoming a prominent and strong leader in the Church. At first there were a number of bishops who were called Popes, but later this title was appropriated solely by the Bishop of Rome. Finally his position became so strong that he was acknowledged as the head of the Church in Western Europe--but always with reservations in England.
The Church came to England in the following way: St. John, one of the apostles, received the Gospel from our Lord. In the city of Ephesus he taught it to his pupil, Polycarp. In his turn Polycarp taught it to his pupil, Irenaeus. Irenaeus sailed from Ephesus to the south of France, went up into the center of the country, became the Bishop of Lyons, and taught Christianity to those people. From France Christianity crossed into Britain, and some time in the early third century the British Church was organized. In 449 A. D., the heathen Angles and Saxons conquered England and drove the British Christians up into the mountains of Wales. About a century later some of these Christians entered the north of England by way of Ireland and came south, converting the Angles and Saxons. Soon after the Bishop of Rome sent St. Augustine with some missionaries to the south of England. Working from both directions the country was Christianized, and the two movements united in the Church of England.
In the eighth century the Danes invaded England and in their turn were Christianized by the Church of England.
In 1066 A. D., William the Conqueror came to England with his banners blessed by the Pope. When he had conquered the country he refused the Pope's request for the control of the Church of England and that Church retained a degree of independence far beyond that of the continental Churches. In 1199 A. D., King John of England, both a bad man and a poor king, was frightened into turning over the control of the Church of England, and in fact of the whole country, to the Pope. The people rose against King John and forced him to sign the Magna Charta, in which among other things was said: "The Church of England shall be free."
For the next three hundred years the Pope tried to make good his claim on the Church of England while the people constantly protested against it. Then King Henry VIII came to the throne and took things into his own hands. He had a personal quarrel with the Pope over family matters and publicly proclaimed that the Pope had no right to govern the Church of England. In this the Church of England supported the king, who was only saying for the Church what the Church had been saying for three hundred years. Foreign domination was cast away and the Church declared its complete independence of Rome without sacrificing its Church Order.
This all happened at the time of the Reformation. On the continent of Europe many new Churches were started at this time. In England the Church was not started. It was the same old Church purified and cleansed of certain imported corruptions. Unlike the Protestants of Europe the Church of England did not start a new Church. It simply sent the Pope back home.
Later on, under Queen Mary, the Pope regained a temporary control in England, but this was again cast away under Queen Elizabeth. During her reign, the Pope ordered all Roman Catholics to leave the Church of England. So the Church of England did not withdraw from the Church of Rome, but it was the Roman Catholic Church which withdrew from the Church of England.
Henry VIII did not start the Church of England. It was already there. He was not a good man and did a great deal of harm to the Church, but he was right in his attitude toward Rome and the people supported him in that. Nobody started the Church of England but Jesus Christ. It is the same Church today that came from Him through St. John, St. Polycarp, and St. Irenaeus.
THE first service out of the Book of Common Prayer to be said in America was conducted on the First Sunday after Trinity, 1579, by the chaplain of Sir Francis Drake's ship near where San Francisco is now situated.
The first permanent work of the Episcopal Church in this country began in Jamestown, Va., in 1607. Soon after a church was built, the ruins of which are still standing.
From this beginning, the Church spread throughout the Colonies and conducted its work under serious difficulties. Clergymen were scare and the congregations were few and scattered. The pioneer life of the colonist was a hard life. The work in the Colonies was under the direction of the Bishop of London, who was three thousand miles away.
It soon became evident that the Church must have bishops of its own in America who could ordain clergy and direct the growth of the Church. It was hard to make the people of England understand the needs of the colonists, and before these plans could be effected the Revolutionary War came on. After the Revolutionary War and when the new nation was established, the Church set about a similar reorganization. In 1783 the Rev. Samuel Seabury was elected Bishop of Connecticut and was sent to England to be consecrated. Many technical obstacles caused delay and Dr. Seabury finally went to Scotland and was consecrated by the bishops there. He returned to America as our first bishop.
In 1786 William White was elected Bishop of Pennsylvania, and Samuel Provoost, Bishop of New York. Both of these men went to England and were consecrated. From that time on these three bishops consecrated other bishops and the Church was able to maintain itself as an American Church.
In 1789 the first General Convention was held in Philadelphia. The Prayer Book was revised for American use and the Constitution of the Church was drawn up and adopted.
The Church then spread as the country grew. In 1835 an important General Convention decided that the first work of the Church must be missionary and that every baptized member of the Church was a member of the Missionary Society. In the same year our first foreign missionary work was undertaken in Liberia, Africa. Liberia is our oldest missionary field today. It was at that same time that Bishop Kemper was sent out to cover a huge territory in the Middle West. In fact the Church's policy was changed. Instead of waiting for congregations to form and ask for bishops, the Church now began to send out bishops to plant congregations and nourish them. The result was that in fifteen years the number of clergy and of communicants had been doubled.
As time passed, the Church extended its operations, until now it recognizes an imperative responsibility wherever the American flag flies, and is doing more and more work in other fields as well. The Church weathered the Civil War and came together at its close without any perpetuation of a split. It has taken an increasingly prominent part in the religious life of our country and has contributed some of its finest manhood to the country's service.
Two-thirds of those who drew up the Declaration of Independence were Episcopalians. So also were two-thirds of those who signed the Constitution of the United States. George Washington was a vestryman and a communicant. Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Marshall, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry--these were all Episcopalians. So were General Scott, Admiral Farragut, and Admiral Dewey. The author of the "Star-Spangled Banner," Francis Scott Key, was an Episcopalian. General Pershing and Admiral Sims are both earnest communicants also.
These are only some of the Churchmen who have helped to make our nation what it is today. There is nothing to be ashamed of in the history of the Episcopal Church. There is a very great deal of which to be proud.
(The above should be supplemented with a brief historical sketch of any given diocese and parish in order to show how every parish and mission in the twentieth century is in direct descent from the original Church in Jerusalem.)
THE official title of our Church is: The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. The name "Protestant," of course, does not mean non-Catholic but non-Roman.
The statistics of the Church for 1932 gave us:
Church School Membership--562,-375.
There are 74 dioceses, 20 domestic missionary districts (including Alaska, the Philippines, Hawaii, Panama, and Puerto Rico), and 11 missionary districts in foreign lands where the American flag does not fly; namely, China 3, Japan 3, Liberia, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, and Haiti. To these should be added as a special jurisdiction our Churches in Europe, of which there are 9. This gives us a total of 106 dioceses and missionary districts.
The Church is organized with a Presiding Bishop, an Assistant to the Presiding Bishop, and a National Council as the central executive body, elected by General Convention and directing the general policies of the Church. The Council is composed of four bishops, four priests, and eight laymen, elected by General Convention, together with one representative elected by each of the eight provinces. The Council works in two sections under a first and second Vice-President respectively. The first section has four Departments: Foreign Missions, Domestic Missions, Social Service, and Religious Education. The second section has three Departments: Finance, Publicity, and Field Department. The first six departments are explained by their titles; the Field Department is the promoter of all the others.
The country is divided into eight large sections called Provinces. The Provinces are divided into smaller districts called Dioceses and Missionary Districts. Within the dioceses and the missionary districts are the separate congregations, known as parishes and missions.
The governing body of the Church is the General Convention, meeting once in three years with deputies from every diocese and missionary district.
The provinces act through a Provincial Synod, which meets once every year with delegates from the dioceses within the province.
The dioceses are governed by the Diocesan Convention or Council, which meets once every year with delegates from the parishes and missions.
The parishes are governed by parish meetings held at least once a year, made up of the members of the congregations.
The difference between a diocese and a missionary district is that the former pays its own way and the latter is supported with missionary help.
A Bishop is the leader of the diocese or missionary district.
A Bishop Coadjutor is an assistant to the bishop who succeeds to the bishopric when the bishop dies.
A Suffragan Bishop is an assistant to the bishop without the right of succession.
A Dean is appointed by the bishop to preside over the clergy in a certain district or to administer the work of a Cathedral. The heads of theological schools are also called Deans.
A Canon is a priest appointed by the bishop on the staff of his Cathedral.
An Archdeacon is appointed by the bishop to represent him in a certain territory for missionary work.
A Rector is the head of an organized parish.
A Curate is an assistant to the rector.
A Priest-in-charge is the head of a mission which is not yet organized as a parish.
A Locum Tenens is one who takes temporary charge in place of someone else.
The Standing Committee of a diocese is elected by the diocesan convention as a body of official advisers for the bishop.
A Council of Advice serves the same purpose for a missionary district as the Standing Committee for the diocese.
A Vestry is elected by the parish meeting as an executive body for the parish, forming, with the rector, the parish corporation.
EVERYBODY has a Creed. The word itself means "belief." Everybody who uses his mind at all has some belief.
The teaching of the Church is summed up in its Creeds from the very earliest times. There was something in the nature of a Creed used by Christians when they were baptized. Originally, it may have been simply a statement of faith in Jesus Christ or in the Holy Trinity. Other items were added until by the middle of the second century most of what we now call the Apostles' Creed was in regular use.
The Nicene Creed is simply a fuller statement of the faith expressed in the Apostles' Creed, and is the Church's answer to certain wrong interpretations of Christian teaching which grew up in the fourth century. The main part of this Creed was adopted at the Council of Nicea, 325 A. D. It was revised at the Council of Constantinople, 381 A. D., and was finally confirmed at the Council of Chalcedon, 451 A. D. It receives its name from the first of these Councils.
The substance of the teaching of the Church is contained in the simple statements of the Apostles' Creed, which is so named because it expresses the teaching of the Apostles. It is made up almost entirely of simple facts taken from the Gospel records.
The Apostles' Creed is divided into three paragraphs, the first speaking of the Father, the second of the Son, and the third of the Holy Ghost. This is the Christian teaching of the Holy Trinity. No one can explain the Trinity. There is no language great enough to explain God. We can only hint at what God must be by partial illustrations. The Holy Trinity means three persons in one God. That is the best way we can say it. It means God in three aspects, each one separate and yet all united. It is like length, breadth, and height in a table; it is like body, soul, and spirit in human life; it is like water, ice, and steam, all of the same elements (H2O) and each different from the others. Of course, such illustrations cannot describe God, but they suggest to us what the Holy Trinity means.
Our knowledge of God is like a lantern in a dark night. It does not dispel all the darkness, but what light it can give is real light and can illuminate our way until greater light comes.
Sec. 1. "I believe in God the Father Almighty." God is the very best that we mean by "Father" and a great deal more besides. Christ speaks of Him constantly as His Father and our Father. (St. Matthew 6: 32.)
"Maker of Heaven and Earth." Everything begins somewhere. God is the First Cause. He is the beginning of all things. (Genesis 1:1.)
Sec. 2. "And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord." The name Jesus means Saviour. The name Christ means anointed. Our Lord in a special way is the Son of God. We in a general way are children of God. (St. John 1: 18.)
"Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary." This is the Christmas story. It was natural that when our Lord came for special work He should come in a special way. In His Human Life God is His Father and St. Mary is His Mother. (St. Luke 1.)
"Suffered under Pontius Pilate." This was the name of the Roman governor who gave the order for Christ's death. (St. Mark 15: 15.)
"Was crucified, dead, and buried." Our Lord really suffered, really died, and was really buried. His life was sinless, but it was human sin and injustice which brought about His death. So He received the undeserved burden of human sin and took it with Him into the grave. When we are baptized into Christ our sins are "buried in His death." This is the atonement.
"He descended into Hell." This means the place of departed spirits and shows that our Lord experienced all of death just as we all must do.
"The third day He rose again from the dead." From Friday to Sunday is the third day by Jewish reckoning. This is the Easter story. Christ returned to His disciples and was with them on many occasions after the Resurrection. This is His great promise that death is not the end of all things. (St. Matthew 28.)
"He ascended into Heaven." Having finished His work, our Lord returned to His place with the Father. This does not mean that Heaven is somewhere up in the air. We do not know where it is. We only know that it is somewhere with God. (Acts 1:9.)
"And sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty." The right hand is always the place of honor. Christ returned to the Father in triumph. (Colossians 3:1.)
"From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead." We are being judged every day by standards of righteousness which Christ gave us. Some day when our human life is ended it must all be gathered together and presented before our Maker. (Revelation 20: 12.)
Sec. 3. "I believe in the Holy Ghost." This is the Spirit of God which guides, teaches, and strengthens God's people. (St. Matthew 28: 19.)
"The Holy Catholic Church." This means the Church as we have spoken of it in the preceding chapters.
"The Communion of Saints." "Saints" here means Christian believers. We are all bound together by a common faith in the Kingdom of God. This includes Christians in this world and also those who have gone before us into the world beyond the grave. They are with God and we are with God and we are still united in the Communion of Saints. Death cannot change that. (I Corinthians 12: 13.)
"The forgiveness of sins." God is always ready to forgive anyone who is forgivable. He cannot forgive us unless we are repentant; that is, we must acknowledge our faults and really mean to do better. (I St. John 2:2.)
"The resurrection of the body." We shall have some sort of body in the future life. St. Paul tells us it will be in some way like our human body, spiritualized. Of course, our human body changes every few years and our resurrection body can hardly be of the same particles as our human body, but it will be a spiritual body corresponding to it.
"And the life everlasting." We are already living the eternal life. It never ceases. It goes through death and continues beyond the grave. It will not be a lazy existence of playing harps and singing hymns. It will still be active service of God but freer, happier, and better than such service could possibly be in the human world.
This is the Creed which Christians have been saying for 1900 years. We repeat it in public worship as a reminder to ourselves and a new offering of our faith in God. Upon it all our Christian life is built.
FROM the very beginning Christians have met together for public worship on Sunday, being the Resurrection Day. At first these services were held in private homes. During times of persecution they were held in secret places like the catacombs in Rome. The earliest records we have tell of a form of service of some kind. It was called a Liturgy.
These forms of service developed with local differences in various places, but they all seem to have kept the same main parts of the service.
At first these forms of service were not written down, but later they were printed on parchments which were used as we use books today.
By the end of the Middle Ages the services of the Church were all written in full in several different books. These books were carried and used by the clergy but were very scarce, as printing was not yet known. The services up to that time in Western Europe were all in Latin.
During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the Bible was translated into English; and, in 1539, copies of the "Great Bible" were installed in all the churches of England. During the next ten years the services of the Church were also translated into English and were combined and printed in the First Book of Common Prayer, which was issued in 1549. Since that time there have been several other editions of the Prayer Book with certain minor changes, but the Prayer Book in the Church of England today is substantially the same as the Prayer Book in 1549.
After the Revolutionary War, it was necessary for our Church in the United States to have its own Prayer Book. In 1789 the leaders of the Church met in Philadelphia and adapted the English Prayer Book to our use by making certain changes. With very few differences that is the Prayer Book we use in our Church today.
There is one thing which always has a place in every public worship when Christians meet; namely, the Lord's Prayer. We find it in two places in the Bible. (St. Matthew 6 and St. Luke 11.) This is a special prayer which our Lord gave to us to use and is always the standard for all of our own prayers which we offer.
The worship of the Church follows the course of the Christian Year. There are eight Seasons in the Christian Year which illustrate special incidents and teachings of the Gospel. The first Season is Advent, which begins on the nearest Sunday to St. Andrew's Day, November 30th. Advent refers to the coming of our Lord and is a Season of preparation. The second Season is Christmas, which is our Lord's Birthday. The third is Epiphany, which tells of the manifestation of Christ and is the Missionary Season. The fourth is Lent, which refers to our Lord's forty days of temptation in the wilderness. The fifth is Easter, the Resurrection Season. The sixth is Ascensiontide, telling of our Lord's ascension. The seventh is Whitsuntide, the birthday of the Church, which tells how the Holy Spirit came to the Church in Jerusalem. The eighth is Trinity, which lasts for six months and sets forth the teachings of the Gospel. By following the Seasons of the Christian Year, the whole Gospel is brought to us every year and no part can ever be omitted.
These will vary in different places according to local habits and traditions, but there are some customs which are followed practically everywhere.
A good general rule for all of our worship is to kneel for prayer, to stand for praise, and to sit for instruction.
The church is God's House and must be treated reverently. Therefore, we avoid loud talking, gossip, and social gatherings in the church, before or after services.
When we enter the church the first thing we do is to kneel and ask God's blessing on our worship.
The clergy and choir wear vestments, which are uniforms for them as leaders in the worship, and which keep the minds of the congregation from thinking of different styles and kinds of clothes which might be worn.
Different colors in vestments and altar hangings represent the different Seasons of the Church Year. White is for Feast Days, purple is for Penitential Seasons, red is for Whitsuntide and most of the Saints' Days, green is for more general Seasons, black is for Good Friday and burials.
There are special days observed each year in honor of the apostles and the evangelists, which are called Saints' Days.
Ember Days come four times a year, when special prayers are offered for those being ordained to the ministry. They are the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the First Sunday in Lent, after Whitsunday, after September 14th, and after December 13th.
Rogation Days (the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension Day) come every spring, when special prayers are offered for the fruits of the ground.
Lent and Advent are Penitential Seasons; Advent being in preparation for the coming of Christ and Lent being our association with Christ in His temptations. Every Friday, being the Crucifixion Day, is a day of abstinence.
Candles on the altar symbolize Christ as the Light of the World. Flowers on the altar symbolize the Resurrection.
The Prayer Book is one of the greatest missionary books that was ever made. Every Churchman should be well acquainted with it. It is a profitable study to go through the services by yourself and to read over the rubrics, which are the directions in fine print between the different parts of the services.
THE Catechism tells us that a sacrament is "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace." There are always these two things in a sacrament, an outward sign and an inward meaning.
The sacramental idea is everywhere. The whole world is built on it and human life works by it. The buds in springtime are outward signs of the life that is within. The words that we speak are outward signs of the thoughts in our minds. Our own bodies are an outward expression of the life within us. Everything about us is sacramental. The world is an outward expression of God's creative power. Therefore the whole world is a sacrament of God.
Since the world lives in this sacramental way it was very natural that our Lord should have taken certain things and made them into Christian sacraments. There are two which we call the Great Sacraments, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. Both of these were given directly by Jesus Christ with His orders to use them and pass them on.
There are many other things which may be sacramentally used, and in the early centuries of Christianity there were various rites which were called Sacramental Rites. In the twelfth century these were grouped together and put down as the five minor sacraments. These five are Confirmation, Matrimony, Penance, Holy Orders, and Unction.
The first great sacrament is HOLY BAPTISM. Christ gave special directions for the use of this sacrament and it has always been practised by the Church from the very beginning. (St. Matthew 28:19.)
As a sacrament, Baptism has two parts; an outward sign and an inward grace. The outward sign of Baptism consists of the use of water together with the name of the Holy Trinity. The inward grace is the forgiveness of sins and admission into God's Kingdom--"a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness." (The Catechism.)
The use of water may be by pouring on the head of the person baptized or by complete immersion in the water. Either method is regular and both have been used from the earliest times.
Baptism is for men, women, and children. Our Lord gives Baptism as the way into the Kingdom as circumcision was the way into the Jewish Church. Circumcision was for children. If there had been anything different about Baptism, we should certainly find it recorded in the Scriptures.
Baptism is a covenant. A covenant means an agreement between two parties. In Baptism it is between God and us. God promises certain things from His side and we promise certain things from our side.
From God's side, we receive, first, forgiveness of our sins. There is a tendency in every human life to do things that are wrong. This tendency is called original sin and it needs something to correct it. God offers us the means in Baptism.
In the second place, God gives us regeneration or new life. Just as we are born physically, so we need to be born spiritually. (St. John 3:5 and Titus 3:5.)
Our side of the covenant promises three things: "First, that we should renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanity of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; secondly, that we should believe all the articles of the Christian faith; and thirdly, that we should keep God's Holy Will and Commandments and walk in the same all the days of our life." We promise renunciation, faith, and obedience. Renunciation means simply that we as children of God expect to renounce that which God could not approve. It does not mean giving up the pleasures and happy times of life, because God certainly means us to be happy. We all know pretty well what things are right and what are wrong. It is the wrong things which we renounce under whatever name we might call them.
The faith we have promised is that which has already been discussed under the "Teaching of the Church."
The obedience means living up to our Christian standards which are set down for us in the eleven Commandments. Ten of the eleven Commandments are the Old Testament Commandments found in Exodus 20, and the eleventh is our Lord's New Commandment found in St. John 13:34: "A new commandment I give unto you that ye love one another; as I have loved you that ye also love one another."
Baptism is something like naturalization. People can live in this country and enjoy most of its benefits without being citizens, but they do not belong to the nation. They are foreigners. It is only when they are naturalized that they become members of the nation and receive all of its benefits and assume the duties of citizenship. Likewise, everyone born into the world lives, generally speaking, in the Kingdom of God. He gets many of the benefits of the Christian faith, but he is not a member of the Kingdom. He is a foreigner. In Baptism he is naturalized and becomes a citizen. From that time on he is "made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven." (The Catechism.)
The sacraments are points of contact between men and God. Electricity is everywhere in the atmosphere all about us. It is only at a point of electrical connection that the electricity can flow through and be properly used. Similarly God is everywhere all about us. The sacraments are the points of spiritual connection through which the grace of God flows from His life into our life. They are points of spiritual contact.
THE second great sacrament of the Church is the Holy Communion. It is also sometimes called the Lord's Supper and sometimes the Holy Eucharist, the word "Eucharist" meaning thanksgiving.
The accounts of the institution of the Holy Communion are to be found in the Holy Scriptures in the following places: St. Matthew 26: 26, St. Mark 14: 22, St. Luke 22: 17, and I Corinthians 11:23.
The Sacrament of the Holy Communion was instituted the night before our Lord's death, when He met with His apostles for the feast of the Passover in Jerusalem. Each year at this time a lamb was sacrificed in the homes of the Jewish people, and was eaten by the members of the family. It was a reminder of God's deliverance of Israel out of Egypt many hundred years before. It united the members of a household in partaking of a common meal. On Good Friday our Lord gave Himself on the Cross as the great sacrifice to take the place of all others (I Corinthians 5:7), and in the Holy Communion He gave to His people the Christian feast which should take the place of the Jewish ceremony. Having blessed the bread and wine, He gave them to the apostles saying, "This is My Body and this is My Blood; do this in remembrance of Me."
As a sacrament, the Holy Communion has two parts. The "outward and visible sign" is the bread and wine, and the "inward and spiritual grace" is that spiritual food which our Lord calls His Body and His Blood.
In Holy Communion Jesus Christ is present with His people in a very special way. Of course, He is always present everywhere, but this sacrament is the special way He has given in which to be specially present. As to just how this is done, we do not know. The Church does not attempt to explain it, but takes our Lord's own words and His own command as sufficient basis for observing the sacrament.
The Holy Communion is a memorial sacrifice. It is not merely a reminder of our Lord's sacrifice on Calvary, for that could be done simply by telling the story or looking at a picture. As a memorial it is an act in which we participate, making an open witness to the fact that we join with Him and share in His sacrifice in the way that He has given us. We "show the Lord's death till He come." (I Corinthians 11: 26.)
The Holy Communion gives us spiritual food, food for our souls. We know that we must have food for our bodies to keep our physical strength sound. Physically, we do not wait until we are hungry before eating our meals, but we eat regularly at meal times in order to avoid becoming hungry. Generally speaking, we do not feel especially stronger after our meals, yet we know that without our meals we would be weak and could not live.
Spiritually, it is much the same way. We do not wait until we feel hungry to come to God for food. We receive the Holy Communion regularly, knowing that it builds us spiritually stronger whether we feel it at any particular time or not.
From the earliest days of the Church we find the sacrament of the Holy Communion has been the special act of worship for Christian people. (Acts 2: 46.) It still remains as our closest approach to God through Christ today. Every Churchman should make his Communion regularly and devoutly with gratitude to God for all that the sacrament represents.
In coming to the Holy Communion there are a few simple rules to follow. Always remove your gloves before coming forward. Place your right hand in the palm of your left and receive the Consecrated Bread in the palm of your right hand and so raise it to your lips. When the chalice containing the Consecrated Wine is presented to you, take hold of the base of the chalice, guide it to your lips, and tip it sufficiently so that you may receive a sip of the wine. Having received your own Communion, return to your pew and remain quietly, offering your own prayers while the others are receiving. It is a bad habit to leave the church before the service is over.
Every Churchman is expected to make his Communion at Christmas, Easter, and Whitsunday especially. He should also receive the sacrament as regularly as possible at other times. Its value increases with its use for the one who approaches reverently.
WE MUST have standards for anything we do. Without standards the world could not get along. There is standard money and standard time, there are standard weights and measures, etc. There must also be standards of Christian living which would be a general guide for every individual's life.
These standards we have in the form of the Commandments. There are the Ten of the Old Testament and the New Commandment given by our Lord. Strictly speaking, the Christian has, therefore, eleven Commandments as the standard of Christian living.
The Ten Commandments are those given through Moses and recorded in the 20th chapter of Exodus.
1. "Thou shalt have none other gods but Me." This tells us that God must be supreme in our lives. Nothing else must be greater. In all things God must be first.
2. "Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image," etc. This warns us against elevating something of our own in the place of God. It forbids us to make money, power, position, or pleasure, or anything else of our own manufacture, to be the object of our worship.
3. "Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain," etc. This is a commandment against irreverence. It forbids the blasphemous use of God's Name and it also warns against flippancy in speaking of sacred things, or irreverence in the House of God. When we enter God's House we come to worship, not to talk and hold receptions.
4. "Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath Day," etc. The word Sabbath means rest. The Sabbath for the Jews was always the last day of the week. To the Christians the first day was the most important day of the week because it was the Resurrection Day. At first the early Christians observed the Jewish Sabbath as the Lord's Day and also observed Sunday as the Resurrection Day. Later the two observances were combined into one day and Sunday for the Christians is t h e Lord's Day. It should be made different from other days, but it need not be made dull or unhappy. Being the Lord's Day, every Churchman owes it to God, to himself, and to the Day to go to church at least once. This should be a rule broken only by the greatest necessity.
5. "Honor thy father and thy mother," etc. This commandment tells us to respect those who are over us, in any part of our lives. As children we are to respect our parents. As Christians we are to honor our Heavenly Father. As Churchmen we are to regard reverently the Church as our spiritual Mother. As pupils we are to do our work faithfully under our teachers, and as workers we are to render honest and efficient work to our employers.
6. "Thou shalt do no murder." This commandment refers to more than the taking of human life. It is an injunction against the ruining of one's reputation, or the slaying of one's character or injury to one's standing.
7. "Thou shalt not commit adultery." A commandment against impurity, in thought, word, or deed. It warns us against loose talk, bad stories, evil companions, and all the things that go with them.
8. "Thou shalt not steal." We are here warned not only against the stealing of another's possessions, but also the stealing of one's happiness or robbing anybody of a friendship. It is a warning against dishonesty, cheating, gambling, or deception in any of its many possible forms.
9. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." We are to renounce falsehood and speak the truth in every way. Lies can be told not only with words, but by silence, or by actions, or in many other ways. A Christian is supposed to be straightforward and reliable as a truthful witness to a faith in the truth of God.
10. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house," etc. This commandment carries the injunction of all the commandments back from deeds to thoughts. What we do generally begins with what we think. We must keep our minds straight and think right and our lives will take care of themselves.
In addition to these commandments which tell us things we are not to do, our Lord gives us another commandment which tells us what we are to do. "A New Commandment I give unto you that ye love one another; as I have loved you that ye also love one another." (St. John 13: 34.) This commandment puts the Christian touch on all the other commandments and converts them into the Christian standards of living. Remember that we can love our neighbors even if we do not like them. For the Christian, to love a neighbor means always to play fair, to help one who needs help, to be ready to forgive, and in general to give everyone a square deal.
These are the standards of Christian living. They are the guides by which our conduct is directed. If we test our lives regularly by these standards we cannot go far wrong. They will keep us in the "way which leadeth to eternal life."
THE life of a Churchman properly begins with Confirmation. By Baptism he becomes a Christian; by Confirmation he becomes a Churchman. Baptism means Christian enlistment; Confirmation means Christian mobilization. In Baptism the Christian promises renunciation, faith, and obedience. In Confirmation he formally ratifies and confirms his promises. In Baptism God gives him admission into His Kingdom and forgiveness of sin. In Confirmation God gives the Holy Spirit to seal His work and to strengthen the Christian in his personal life.
Confirmation was regularly in use by the apostles and apparently was part of the Christian teaching as they had learned it from our Lord. It was known then, as it is still known, as the "Laying on of Hands."
In the 8th chapter of the Acts it is told how the people of Samaria became interested in the Gospel and had received Christian Baptism. St. Peter and St. John were then sent from Jerusalem to confirm these baptized Christians. "Then laid they their hands on them and they received the Holy Ghost." (Acts 8:14-17.)
In the 19th chapter of the Acts, it is recorded how St. Paul found people in Ephesus who had received St. John the Baptist's baptism of repentance. When St. Paul taught them the Gospel they gladly received Christian Baptism. But that was not enough. After they had been baptized, they were also confirmed--"and when Paul had laid his hands upon them the Holy Ghost came on them." (Acts 19: 1-7.)
In the 6th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the writer is speaking of foundations of Christian teaching--things which were so well understood that they were taken for granted. Among others he mentions "the doctrine of baptisms and the laying on of hands." Confirmation was so well understood that it did not need to be further discussed. (Hebrews 6: 1-2.)
It is plain from these New Testament references that the laying on of hands was the regular custom among the apostolic Christians; that it always came after Baptism; and that it was always administered by t h e apostles. After the death of the apostles, as described in the previous chapter on Church History, the bishops inherited this duty along with others.
Confirmation consists in the laying of hands upon the candidate by the bishop and the offering of a prayer. It does not take the place of Baptism but supplements it. The bishop asks two questions of those who are to be confirmed: "Do ye here, in the presence of God, and of this congregation, renew the solemn promise and vow that ye made, or that was made in your name, at your Baptism; ratifying and confirming the same; and acknowledging yourselves bound to believe and to do all those things which ye then undertook, or your sponsors then undertook for you?" The candidates answer: "I do." The bishop then asks "Do ye promise to follow Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?" Again the candidates answer: "I do."
For fifteen hundred years Confirmation was in universal use by all Christians. At the present time nine-tenths of the Christian world still use it. It is recorded in the Scriptures, it was used and sanctioned by the apostles, and it has always been the habit of the Church. All this would seem to give it some reason and solid backing for every Christian who desires to live up "to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
Could we not get along just as well without Confirmation? Perhaps. If you are going from one city to another and there is a highway laid and maintained by the government, you would probably travel over that highway. You might reach your destination by going through woods or cutting across fields, but the sensible thing to do would be to follow the road. We know of no by-paths for the Christian life. Christ tells us of a "straight and narrow way." He also says: "He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." "I am the door." (St. John 10:1 and 9.) We know something about these ways. We don't know much about "perhaps."
The Churchman will come to church at least once every Sunday. A real reason will be necessary to keep him away. If there is such a reason he will have his own service out of his own Prayer Book.
He will come to church on time, kneel for the prayers, sing the hymns, say the responses.
He will receive the Holy Communion with regularity; certainly not less than once in a month and if possible oftener.
He will say his private prayers morning and evening every day.
He will ask God to bless his meals. "Bless, O Lord, these Thy gifts to our use and us to Thy Service for Christ's sake. Amen."
He will read his Bible.
He will make a regular contribution to his Church according to the local plan of giving.
He will also make a regular contribution to the missionary work of the Church.
He will become a member of some parish organization and help forward the parish activities.
He will subscribe to some Church paper and read it in order that he may be up to date as a Churchman.
He will invite his friends to come to church with him and will speak well of the Church to them. In other words, he will be a missionary.
He will be loyal to God, to the Church, and to his parish in all things at all times.
O GOD, the Might of all them that put their trust in Thee; Grant that we may be more than conquerors over all that makes war upon our souls, and, in the end, enter into perfect peace in Thy presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O GOD, who hast called us all to follow Thee; Grant unto us such grace that we may never turn back from the way upon which we have entered, but may ever keep close to Thee in this life, and at length be with Thee in Thine everlasting kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O GOD, forasmuch as without Thee we are not able to please Thee; Mercifully grant that Thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.