present, and future.
of Western New York, in St. Paul's Pro-Cathedral, Buffalo,
N.Y., Wednesday Evening, May 24, 1894.
Bishop of Springfield
REPRINTED FROM THE CHURCH ECLECTIC
For the Church Eclectic.
PUBLIC WORSHIP. PREFATORY NOTE.
The reason for the preparation and preaching of the following Sermon will be best given by the subjoined extract from a letter addressed to me under date Buffalo, January 2lst, 1893, by a Committee of the Church Club of the above named city:
"The Bishop of Western New York desires to mark the Columbian Year, the year of the advent of the Standard Prayer Book, with an official and authoritative statement of the claims of the American Church. To this end the Bishop proposes the enclosed series of Cathedral Sermons to be delivered in St. Paul's Church, Buffalo, N. Y., if practicable between Easter and July 1, 1893. The undersigned by the direction of the Bishop ask you to give one of these Sermons, and if quite agreeable the one assigned."
The subject assigned drawn out into detail by the skilful hand of the Bishop of Western New York, was as follows:
"PUBLIC WORSHIP. Traditional; Hebrew; Christian; in America, past, present, and future."
I accepted the invitation, and as it was intimated that the Sermons were to be published, I departed from my habit and committed my thoughts to paper, and accordingly at his request I have my manuscript in hand to place at the disposal of my friend, the Editor of the ECLECTIC.
The Sermon was delivered in St. Paul's Church, Buffalo, the Pro Cathedral of the Diocese of Western New York, Wednesday Evening, May 24, 1893.
Springfield, Ill. April 2, 1894. GEORGE F. SEYMOUR.
"And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles' .... breaking of bread and in Prayers."-Acts ii. 42.
IS worship a lost art? One may well ask this question, as he looks away from Holy Scripture and the historic Church of God to the ideals, which men embody in practice before our eyes as their conception of the due and proper way by which the creature should approach the Creator.
Worship is the word, which describes the conscious intercourse on the part of the creature with the Creator. The Creator is always conversant with creation, the entire domain is beneath His Omniscient eye, and He is always and everywhere cognizant of the presence of all things. But this is not the case with us in our relation to Him, who made us at the first, and preserves us through all our lives. Largely in point of time and of necessity largely, we are away from Him. He is not in our thoughts, and we are not, by intention in His Presence. We are not, we cannot be constantly waiting upon Him, visiting Him and soliciting His recognition of us. Our finite existence with its inexorable necessities, its infirmities, and its worse than weaknesses, its sins, forbids perpetual intercourse with the Divine Being. At the best and in the highest condition of spiritual development we can only from time to time consciously place ourselves beneath the Eye of God, and when we do, the coming to Him, the reaching out and up to Him is called worship. The conception of creation in the Presence of its Maker is magnificent. Infinite condescension on the one side, and the lifting up to the utmost limit of ability in praise and adoration on the other, towards the Fountain of life and the Parent of loveliness and joy.
This idea of universal worship is mirrored on the pages of Scripture in giving to trees and plants, and wind and storm, snow and hail, and mist and vapor, and sun and moon and stars voices to join with fishes, beasts and birds and creeping things in a chorus of halleluiahs and hosannas to the Almighty.
Occasionally in the Old Testament and more definitely in the New glimpses are vouchsafed us of the worship, which is and shall be paid to God by Angels and Archangels and cherubim and seraphim and the spirits of just men made perfect in heaven. The idea is the same, the principles involved are identical. The approach of the creature to the Creator is along the same lines, and bears essentially the same tribute, whether it be a dew drop or the four and twenty elders falling before the throne. The central idea is giving. The lines of approach are the lifting up of the creature through and by the best member which it has, towards the source of all life.
The forest, the field, the sea, the depths beneath, the heights above, the animalculæ, which populate a drop, the cattle on a thousand hills, the wild beasts, which roam the mountains, the monsters of the deep, the stars in their courses, the holy men and women, who are set before us as examples, the higher intelligences who are the special ministers of Jehovah, are gathered by the scenic representations of Holy Scripture painted by the divine hand, into one grand assembly, and all are harmonized by one idea, the idea of giving glory to God, and unified by one spirit, the spirit of adoration and praise. There is no blot upon this panorama of beauty as it is unrolled and developes its increasing glories until the zenith is reached in the Apocalypse, where language and imagery fail to set before us the splendor and magnificence of the everlasting worship of the skies. It is giving, giving, giving, outgoing, outpouring, uprising, this, and only this from first to last, from the beginning to the end. The music is set to one key throughout from the birth of creation, "when the morning stars sang together, and all the Sons of God shouted for joy," (Job xxxviii. 7,) until time shall be no longer, and the song of the Lamb shall lift the praises of the redeemed universe forever and ever to the great white throne.
The historic Church of Christ preserves this ideal. The ancient liturgies set before us the worship of Christians East and West from the days when the first believers "continued steadfastly in the Apostles' breaking of bread and in prayers" down to the present hour. Accretions have been permitted and sanctioned in some quarters marring these Liturgies with many and serious errors; and transpositions and changes have been made in others, disfiguring compositions, which in their origin are more than human, but notwithstanding all that is amiss in teaching and arrangement, the central pervading idea remains clear and conspicuous, and it is the idea of Holy Scripture embodied and applied under the conditions of approach to God through the incarnate Lord, and the crucified Redeemer; it is the idea of giving, of going out to God with something in our hands to offer. Is this the idea, which fills the minds of our American people, when they go up to the House of God to worship? Are these the lines along which their hearts and souls go out, if they go out at all from themselves, to meet in holy converse their Maker, and Redeemer, and Sanctifier? As we look at our congregations, gathered ostensibly to wait upon the Lord, and present themselves before Him, do they exhibit, even the most devout of them, any conscious apprehension of His Presence, and of their true and dutiful relation to that Presence? Are they not sitting on their seats as though they were in a concert hall, or a lecture room? Do they not listen to prayers as if they were sermons? And are not the praises and the notes of the organ regarded as the music of the opera? Do not our people practically, I mean the great mass of them, absolutely reverse the conception of the worship of God as set before us in the Holy Scripture and the historic Church of Christ?
God gives us all. He creates us, He preserves us; "He opens His hand, and fills all things living with plenteousness," He gives us His only begotten Son to be our Saviour, He calls upon us to approach Him with prayers, and alms, and oblations and offerings, He lifts us up to the lofty plane of givers by giving us of His own, even to the extent of "His dearly beloved Son," and commanding us to give, and filling us by His Spirit with such delight in the contemplation of His majesty and mercy and love, that we forget ourselves, and are absorbed in one feeling, which reaches our lips in the cry of gratitude, "We thank Thee for Thy great glory." This is what God does for us, and this is what God requires of us to wait upon Him with His own, and give Him, that He may thus exalt us to be like Himself in giving, the gifts, which He puts into our hands to offer, and to lift our whole being in adoration and praise and thanksgiving to Him. This is worship in its true conception and idea as the Bible uniformly, without exception, presents it, and as the Apostles' Eucharist and Liturgy embody it and hand it down to us. In view then of what we ordinarily see and hear around us in what are called the assemblies of the faithful, is it surprising that the inquiry rises with more than pain, with anguish and dread to the lips, "is worship a lost art?" Has its root, its central, its pervading idea faded out from the knowledge of men? It would seem so. The prevalent conviction appears to be that the creature presents himself before God to receive. God scarcely condescends, that is not the word, God comes to meet man, that He may either directly give, or allow Himself to be made the agent through which favours and benefits are bestowed. The symbolism of the buildings, their furniture and its arrangement, the services in their structure and expression, the attitude of those who gather, as they say, "to worship," the postures of their bodies, the language of their lips, the spirit which animates their behaviour, exclude almost entirely the idea of giving, of offering to God, and compel the conclusion that the modern unscriptural, anti-Christian belief is, that the creature,, including man, waits upon, meets the Creator to get, to receive, to be loaded down with good things, and is not expected, much less required to bend low before His footstool, in whose presence angels veil their faces, to bring the firstlings of his flocks with Abel, his only son with Abraham, his choice treasures with Hannah, his water of Bethlehem with David, his gold, frankincense, and myrrh with the wise men, his alabaster box with the penitent woman, his sweet spices with Mary Magdalene. This is not expected, much less required. But modern thought, and learning, and human progress have carried man away from the past, and lifted up his head, and justified him in his own eyes in having a stiff neck and a proud look even in the presence of his Maker. He is separated from the apostles and prophets of Scripture, and the saints of all ages hitherto in his relation to God. They never came empty, they fell upon their knees, or stood with reverence and bowed heads. They humbled themselves and accounted themselves unworthy of the least of God's mercies. Our modern Christian of the nineteenth century and on American soil has been educated into a very different spirit and frame of mind. He begrudges time spent in church as little better than wasted, he discounts or rejects the doctrines of original sin, and the atonement, he is impatient of dogma, and even the creed; he cares little for prayer and praise, since he sees no value in them, he urges that God needs not anything, and he has nothing to give; Sacraments are out of his thoughts as worthless, and consequently useless. His attitude toward any public recognition of God on the part of men is that of pure selfishness, and it savors strongly of patronage. This is a most unlovely picture, but the pity is that it is painted from life. The dread reality confronts us and appals us on every hand, and a large section of the so-called religious literature of the day inculcates and approves such a conception of the true relation and duty of mankind to God.
Let us then look away from such a distressing spectacle of man's ignorance and presumption and folly, to God's Word and God's Church, as presenting the true ideal of worship; and fortified by this divine instruction enforced by precept and example strive by our influence to bring men back to the recognition of what worship truly is, and to its practice in their permitted approaches to God. In this survey there is this great comfort that we shall find unanimous consent as to the essence of worship, and as to the conditions under which man may acceptably come into the presence of God, and the provision which the divine love and care have made for such approaches in holy worship.
Man when innocent before the fall was a little lower than the angels, but as the angels in his relation to God, he came into God's presence with joy and gladness and holy fear; no shadow rested on him, no sin lay at his door; he was free to come, and while he veiled his face, and felt an awful apprehension of His majesty and glory, still he loved, yearned to be with God. It was only when man fell that God had need to inquire, "where art thou?" It was only after man became a sinner, that he hid himself from the presence of God, and knew that his nakedness revealed his shame. Before there was the disparity, the infinite interval between the Creator and the creature, but it was bridged over by the condescending love of the Maker, and the uprising overflowing gratitude of the -recipient of this love. The angelic worship sketched by St. John as offered in heaven brings back to us in ideal the nature and char-after of the intercourse of man with God in his innocence in Eden. It was the outgoing of thanksgiving and praise, the lifting up of the entire being in adoration, the pouring forth of love as the expression of the soul's whole life in the energy of giving to God the tribute due to His blessed Presence. Paradise, man's first dwelling place on earth, displayed on every side the perfection of beauty, but the crown of all this loveliness was the conscious leadership of man in the chorus of praise, which ascended from creation in all its gradations to the Creator, Who had just pronounced it, as He rested from His work, "Very good." There was no pain, no throb of anguish, no groan, no blot, or blemish or any such thing. It was the morning fresh, and pure, and innocent. It knew no evil. It was the day which the Lord had made, and all things rejoiced and were glad in it. But that Eden was not to last forever, it was destined quickly to fade from view, and to linger as the earliest memory of Earth, and to remain as a prophecy of what was to be in the far off future, when its scenery would be a suggestion of a more glorious reality, and its joys and blessedness would have passed into the eternal happiness and glory of heaven. Meanwhile between lies man's night of sin, sorrow and death, or if one chooses to measure human history by days, they are not the days "which the Lord hath made," but the days which man makes, and he cannot rejoice in them with any lasting joy, nor be glad in them with any gladness which will abide. Man fills them full with his own thoughts and words and deeds, and they gather blackness, and become as night in contrast with the beginning and the end, the Eden behind us bright with God's Presence and man's innocence, and the heaven before us radiant with God's glory and the lustrous beauty of the angelic hosts and the spirits of just men made perfect. The worship in both cases is alike in character, but different in its exaltation in degree, and measure of excellence. It is the giving adoration and praise, and thanksgiving and honor and glory to God. There is no asking, beseeching, praying. There was in Eden, and there will be in heaven no need of anything; there was, and there will be no present evil to cause unrest; there was, and there will be no threatened danger to be dreaded. The only yearning was and will be the craving for more capacity to love, the desire for enlarged ability to increase the volume of thanksgiving and praise, the giving one's self and all that he is and has in worship.
We have then the first and the last, the beginning and the end,, the Eden of our first parents and the Heaven of redeemed and glorified humanity before us in their worship, and its essence, its heart and soul and life is giving.
And now we pass to what lies between, our present world as we know it, and as man has known it from the fall, and will know it until the judgment, and we are to inquire as to the changes, which sin has wrought in worship. The fall altered the conditions of man's existence. He himself became unclean. Shame covered his face, fear filled his heart. He fled from the presence of God, and sought the darkness, he hid himself. He sewed fig leaves together to cover his nakedness. Whether nature felt the pang of sin or not, it has always been true since the fall that the earth has been under the curse of God, it could always be said as St. Paul affirmed, "that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." Evil was not only within man's person and shame without, but evil was abroad in the world, in the ground beneath his feet, in the air he breathed, the food he ate, the water he drank. Mildew, storm, tempest, pestilence, fire and flood were a constant menace. Dangers thickened along his path. Disease, famine and the sword were frequent visitors. Death confronted him, and its sting filled him with many sorrows, and made him horribly afraid. The contemplation of these facts suggests the altered conditions under which man stood to his Maker after sin entered into the world, from those, which marked his relation before. He had become unclean, and needed to be cleansed and covered in order to be fit to appear before his God. Wants many and urgent pressed upon him for supply. Pains and sorrows and sins weighed upon him and pierced him with anguish. The future near and more remote distressed him with apprehensions of coming woes. He had no power of himself, to help himself he was undone. He feared to seek God's presence, and yet he could not remain away. How should he come? There must be cleansing, there must be sacrifice and atonement for sin, there must be prayer in all its varieties of purpose, and these are additions to the worship of the innocent in Paradise and the righteous in heaven. These with the permanent elements of praise and thanksgiving and adoration constitute the worship of sinners in our present estate in this mortal life. Our approach to God then so free and open once, so full of joy, is blocked now by sin and the fruits of sin, and help must come to give us access to God, or we must be forever shut out from His presence and the glory of his power. God comes Himself to give us this help. Tradition dim and uncertain whispers at first like the notes of the Aeolian harp heard at intervals, "God is with us, God shows the way, God is the way," and then the whisper waxes stronger in sound and is audible and steady and clear in articulate speech in Jewish rite and service and sacrifice, and then "the Desire of all nations" comes and gathers up into Himself all prophecies, and traditions and types, and fills the world with the proclamation of love, "Before Abraham was I am," "I am Alpha and Omega," "I am the way, the truth and the life." And the eye of St. John sees for us and tells us in a sentence the whole story of cleansing and atonement and redemption of the human race, when he says he saw in heaven the Lamb of God in the midst of the throne "slain from the foundation of the world." The Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, the Seed of David, the Child of Bethlehem, the Prince of peace, Jesus, Emmanuel, "God with us" is the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, "the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world," the full perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world," "the resurrection and the life," "the King immortal, invisible, the only wise God," who ascends in our sight to His throne on the right hand of the eternal Father, and "opens the Kingdom of heaven to all believers." He is the gift of God to fallen man, the gift of gifts, the gift which comprehends and implies all other gifts. He is placed, He places himself in our hands, in our hearts and souls, if we will receive Him, and washes us with His own blood, and sanctifies us with His Spirit, and shelters us with His presence, and comes in His own special and blessed way, and dwells in us, and lifts us up to dwell in Him. Thus God opens the way for fallen man laden with sins to find access to Him, thus He covers his nakedness, and quenches his shame, thus he pardons his transgressions and opens his lips with praise, thus He fills him with good things and provides him with oblations to offer, even the Body and Blood of His Only Begotten Son.
Tradition comes down to us, and it is rooted in what God did for man, after the fall, to cover his nakedness and hide his shame. The foundation on which this superstructure is built, seems, perhaps, very inadequate at first, but the more we examine into the subject, the more substantial it seems, until at length we are convinced that sacrifice, even to the shedding of blood and the death of the victim is by God's appointment and instruction the essential feature of worship for a fallen creature acceptably to offer. It is allowed with almost universal consent, that the great primal truths, which all nations hold in common, embedded in their mythology and superstitions, hidden beneath their romance and fable, and dressed up and often degraded in their poetry, are the legacy of Eden, the wealth of supernatural knowledge with which God endowed man ere He "sent him forth to till the ground from whence he was taken."
So reasonable a supposition explains the unity of primal idea, or root abstract truth, which lies at the bottom of the most diverse myths and fables and stories and superstitions, which develope the beliefs of different nations touching mart's origin, his future destiny, his relation to the powers above him, and his door of access and plea for reconciliation. Sacrifice, and bloody sacrifice, was one of the primal truths, we may say the central primal truth, which God revealed to man, as the atonement, the way back to peace and happiness from sin and misery and death. The coats of skins with which God clothed the man and the woman, imply the shedding of blood, the taking of life as an offering for sin, and the revelation of a truth to our first parents, which was to pass from them to Cain and Abel, and to Noah and his sons, and the patriarchs, and to Israel, and the Gentiles, and to permeate the race, and reach its true expression and consummation in the one full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice of Christ upon the cross.
In this view of the origin of the idea that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin," we have an adequate and satisfactory explanation of the different manner in which God treated the offering of Cain, and of Abel, refusing the one and accepting the other. "Cain brought of the fruits of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect." (Gen. iv : 3-5.)
Cain, it would seem, refused to obey; he declined to profit by instruction, he was wise in his own conceit, and he felt that the fruits of the ground, though it had been cursed as a punishment for sin, were an offering meet and apt, and all-sufficient for God. He ignored sin and its penalty death, and doubtless, in the light of revelation, for God must have spoken when He clad Cain's parents with the vesture of slain beasts, and told them that blood alone, suffering even to the forfeit of life, could cleanse the sinner and clothe him with righteousness. Amid the light of such knowledge made known from above, Cain closed his eyes to what seemed to him unnecessary, distressing, barbarous, cruel, and chose what he deemed a more excellent way, and so he came with a bloodless offering and turned his back upon the cross, and the promise that, "the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head." Cain became the leader of the optimists of earth, of those, who fail to see or will not see the awfulness of sin, the reality of evil, and the misery of hell. They have much to say against vicarious suffering, and plant themselves upon love, good will, pleasant things and lovely, human progress, the fruits of the earth, luscious and fragrant and beautiful. They are good natured and high-toned and generous, and revolt from blood shed in sacrifice, whether it be Abel's lamb, or the Lamb of God, which always, from the first Cain to the Cains of the present day, wounds their pride, and they do not hesitate to shed their brother's blood. They bring themselves by deliberately and presumptuously refusing the crucified Redeemer, under the curse of God, and sink into brutishness and worldliness and sensuality. They go out from the presence of God, and seek to recover a fallen world by their own efforts and contrivances and labours in human progress. In Cain the divine curse fell upon man directly, and under the awful shadow of this curse, these Cains, these optimists, these prophets of good things, these men of soft manners, and generous sentiments, and smooth words and of many inventions, bring themselves, by refusing with the first Cain the blood of sacrifice and the death of the victim as the propitiation for sin.
Abel comes in dutiful obedience to God with the firstlings of his flock slain in sacrifice as his offering, and God accepts him. He, too, becomes a leader, and His followers are catalogued by an Apostle as the army of faith, and his name is linked with One of whom only it could be said that the blood, which He shed, "speaketh better things than that of Abel." This union of Christ with Abel is the key, which unlocks the secrets of sacrifice in the way all along, which lies between. It binds together in one volume the story of bloody offerings, and explains the mystery of suffering and death as the road to happiness and the door of life.
The first sacrifice and the last proclaim the same truth, but the last speaketh better things than the first because it is the real voice of which the first, and all that were heard in the centuries between were the echoes, it is the blessed substance of which they were but the shadows. It made good to men and fulfilled that which they only promised. But their promise implied faith in the fulfilment, and the efficacy of the reality was imparted to the shadows. The last was the one full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, and so it was fruitful in all needed blessings for sinners, from righteous Abel to the end, and filled with the only virtue it possessed, and that was enough, the blood of bulls and of goats, which in itself can never take away sin, but which, through the underlying sacrifice, the Lamb of God, stretched upon the cross beneath, cleanseth from all sin, and maketh those who offer fit to appear before their God.
How easy it is to travel then under the leadership of Abel, whose offering God respected; with Noah as he comes from the ark into a new world, as it were after the flood, and as his first recorded act, builds an altar unto the Lord, and offers burnt offerings thereon, and wins God's blessing for himself and mankind; with Abraham as he binds Isaac, and lays him upon the altar on the wood, and stretches forth his hand to slay his son; with Isaac at Beersheba, and Jacob at Bethel, with the children of Israel in Egypt, and Moses and Aaron, the Priest of the Lord, and the judges and prophets reaching down to him, whose voice is still heard in our assemblies, saying, "From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, My Name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered unto My Name, and a pure offering, for My Name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts." Thus does the old pass into the new, and thus does Abel's offering "of the firstlings of the flock, and of the fat thereof" unite the acceptable worship of primeval man with the offering made for man in the fulness of time by the Lamb of God, "who taketh away the sins of the world." Thus does bloody sacrifice, self surrender to the utmost limit, to the giving up life itself, reach its consummation and fulfilment on the cross. Thus does the blood which speaketh better things than that of Abel, conclude forever the slaughter of beasts in sacrifice, and leave the eucharistic offering of bread and of wine to show forth the Lord's death till He come, and to present and apply the benefits of His passion to all penitent souls, even unto the end of the world.
The first believers in Christ, the fruits of St. Peter's preaching on the day of Pentecost, continued steadfastly in the Apostles' "breaking of bread and in prayers." The apostolic worship, it is too early yet to call it Christian, is evolved out of the Jewish, and carries it up into Christ, the Great High Priest, who has ascended into the Holy of Holies, even heaven itself, to appear before the Eternal Father with His own body, and His own blood, offered upon the altar of the Cross for all mankind. There "He ever liveth," says the Apostle, "to intercede for us." There in our manhood worship reaches perfection, and He is there in the presence chamber of the King of Kings, that He may prepare a place for us, as He promised, and may make us ready by His grace bestowed in acceptable worship here, to occupy that place and join with all the Company of Heaven in saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, heaven and earth are full of Thy glory, glory be to Thee, O Lord Most High."
This worship, "the breaking of bread and the prayers," quickly enshrined itself in the Liturgy, which was in the hands of believers in Christ, doubtless before they had a written Gospel, or a single Epistle. The New Testament comes as a gift from the Blessed Spirit to men who already had the Creed, and the Sacraments and the worship of the Church in possession and in actual use, as a guarantee to after ages that the trusts transmitted were preserved entire and undefiled, and as a test to try them and restore them to purity, if they became corrupt.
The Liturgy, like the blessed Gospel, assumes a fourfold form, as the first ages present it to us. There is but one Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. He is the Gospel for the four points of the compass, for the entire circle of humanity, as St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke and St. John proclaim Him to all mankind, so there is but one Liturgy lifting up the hearts and souls of men to God in the service of the Lord's appointment, "the breaking of bread," but it, like the holy Gospel, has four faces, looks in four directions, meets the special characteristics of all mankind with the same offering, the same pleading, the same thanksgiving. The pearl of great price is the same in all, the setting is different; the substantial blessings are identical, the wrappings, which envelope them vary; the bread and wine, the Body and the Blood, the confession and prayer, the praise and thanksgiving are alike present in all, but the drapery which clothes them changes in detail of arrangement and adjustment. "The breaking of the bread and the prayers," as bearing the Apostles' name and authority, constitute the essence and the form of worship appointed and commanded by the Lord himself, for sinners on earth until He come. It is the service, which, like Him, who is its substance, its heart, its life, makes all holy things one, and draws all things to itself as their centre. Christ is the light of Scripture, He shines in Genesis, in the creation, and in the fall, He is the sanction of the Law, He illumines the Psalms, He is the subject of prophecy, He lifts up in the Gospel the light of His countenance upon us, He is the logic and the theology of the Epistles, and He fills the Apocalypse with the glory of God and of the Lamb. So the Sacred Liturgy in itself and the accretions, which it has taken on as homogeneous to itself, unifies all worship, and strikes its roots into the dispensations of the past, and gives us a foretaste of and anticipates the glory and bliss of Heaven.
The blood of sacrifice is in the Eucharist, the precious blood, which cleanseth from all sin, and prepares the comers there unto to appear acceptably before their God. It speaketh better things than that of Abel, since from it Abel's firstlings of his flock and all their victims slain for the altar derive their value, and receive the explanation of their suffering and death.
The bread and wine of Melchisidek are there, because the sin offering and the burnt offering have, by the shedding of blood, remitted the curse, which rested on the ground and purged its fruits, the gifts of the harvest and the vintage, so that they become meet for an offering of thanksgiving unto God, and the ministers of the highest blessings unto the soul of man, even the Body and Blood of the crucified Redeemer.
Prayer is there, which asks for pardon for one's self; Intercession is there, which pleads for others; Pleading is there, which begs, if it be God's will, that present evil may be removed; Entreaty is there,, that dangers and trials which threaten may be warded off; Thanksgiving is there, which pours forth gratitude for mercies received; Adoration is there, which contemplates with inexpressible delight the glory of God. Simple yet grand, brief yet comprehensive, telling the story of man's undoing and man's Redemption, prayer and praise, and thanksgiving in action as well as in speech; the Blessed Eucharist is the divine drama, which presents what is real, and makes the past and the present and the future one in the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, and sheds its blessing, even the blessing of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, upon all mankind.
Around the Eucharist cluster, as grapes upon the stem, since they grow out of it, the fasts and the festivals of the sacred year. The Passover is there, since Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; Pentecost is there, for the Holy Ghost descends and fills the fruits of the earth with the riches of heaven; Christmas is there, because in every celebration Christ renews to us the privilege vouchsafed the shepherds of Bethlehem, the wise men of the East and Anna and Simeon from the Temple. We may approach and worship, we may present our gifts, we may take the Holy Child up in our arms, nay, we may dwell in Him, and have Him dwell in us, and sing our Nunc Dimittis. The Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of many names, fulfills at once the offices of the tabernacle and of the temple; it is the place of meeting where God comes to meet us, and we go out to meet God. It is in the midst of the tribes, and is four-sided, and so faces all and turns away from none. It shelters the divine Presence, while it reveals It. It is fixed in position, and yet it travels all over the earth It makes every spot where it is celebrated the Holy City, and thither men turn with the windows of their souls, like the prophet in a strange land, open towards Jerusalem, whither they turn to-worship. It is the door of access, opened by the Master, for sinners to pass through, with offerings in their hands, which He has given them, even Himself slain, and risen again, and at the right hand of the Father. It is the door of access to the secret place, where God hides them and refreshes them, and permits them to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Worship, then, culminates in the Lord's breaking of bread. This is its focus, but its light shines afar off, and warms and illumines every service. Baptism is the birth, which ushers in the life, which is hid with Christ in God, and that life is nourished by the spiritual manna, which the Lord supplies. Confirmation enriches the soul with gifts, which make the recipient hungry and thirsty to do the Lord's will, and eat and drink as He commands. Matrimony is holy when it is built upon oneness in Christ, which is best expressed by partaking of that one Bread, which came down from heaven. Sickness and death are the common lot of man, and the Lord's food is the medicine of immortality, and the bond of union between the living and the departed. The darkest shadows of sin are seen in the gloom of the prison, and the frightful details of execution, but even hither the Lord comes, and He who can save to the uttermost ministers to the penitent convict the consolation of His pardon and peace in the pledges of His redeeming love.
Matins and Evensong are Holy Communions at a further remove. They look toward the Breaking of Bread, wherein we approach the Lord of Life as closely as our infirmities and sins will permit, while we remain in the flesh. Worship is not, thank God, absolutely a lost art. The Church of God has ever possessed it, and known it and practised it, and taught it. We have been at fault on our American soil, in discharging as we should our duty to our brethren. Our fathers have sinned, perchance, and we have sinned in this regard towards ourselves, since, if we had gone out to God with the honor due unto His Name, our example would have told upon our neighbors, and won many to copy a more excellent way.
But it may be said that the first centuries of our national life, in its infancy and early youth, were unfortunate ages as regards the condition of the Church of God in our Anglican Communion.
Coldness, indifference, deadness, fell upon her in the mother country, and these grievous faults were intensified by the weakness of the few immigrants to a strange land, and the privations and poverty of the wilderness.
For full one hundred and fifty years our polity here was not only incomplete without a bishop, but it lacked the well spring of life and strength in the absence of a home Episcopate to govern, and superintend, and provide. The only wonder is that we were not swallowed up, the very few among the many, by the ignorance and fanaticism, which almost universally prevailed. Our fathers on the other side of the sea, and our fathers in this country, did not know the full value of the treasures which they possessed, and possibly we ourselves, even to-day, have a very inadequate conception of the real worth of the trusts, which have been confided to our keeping for the benefit of all mankind.
But even supposing that our ancestors, who came out as colonists to our Atlantic coast two centuries and more ago had been well instructed Christians, they were scarcely in a condition to worship God with those accessories which are due to his majesty and honor. The absence of what for lack of a better term we may call the luxuries of religion does not abate, when we are doing the very best that we can, in the least degree from the value of our service in the eye of God, but when thus shorn of its external beauty it fails to impress those without.
God was never more acceptably worshipped than He was when the first believers lifted up their hearts to Him and made their offerings from catacombs and caves and dens of the earth, but then it was their high privilege to advertise the Church and win their adversaries and overcome their enemies by confessorship and martyrdom. Such experiences were not the lot of the first settlers of this land, and the outside population moreover was not as the pagans, who persecuted the Christians ignorant of Christ and His claims. They knew something of both, but they were alienated from the historic Church, and hated her, and were full of prejudice concerning her, and were not in a condition to be favorably impressed1-or taught or won.
We may say that ignorant as they may have been of the full value of what they possessed, still our fathers in the faith held on tenaciously to their treasures, and profited by them in their imperfect use of them so far as they could, and handed them on to us uninjured and unimpaired.
We shall do well, if with our increased light and knowledge, we do as well relatively as they did.
Pioneer settlers in a new land leave behind them, as a matter of necessity to a large extent, the accessories, which render living comfortable and elegant. This was much more the case two hundred or even a hundred years ago than at present, the facilities of transportation across oceans and continents bring the most distant colonies now comparatively speaking near to the centres of civilization, so that in the backwoods, and the far away off mining camp to-day the hardy adventurers enjoy many of the conveniences, if not the luxuries of life. In the home, in society, in civil and political affairs, in the sphere of learning and religion, there are necessary things, which must be always present, and then there are other things, which may be dispensed with at the cost of convenience or comfort, or lavish display. The necessary elements of home, for example, may be sheltered in a tent, or a log hut, or they may be for a time absolutely houseless, so the worship of God may be beneath the vault of heaven, or the boughs and foliage of trees, or in upper rooms, or rude chapels, as well as in stately churches and grand Cathedrals; it may be celebrated with the simplicity of God's requirements alone, water and bread and wine, and the spoken word, or it may, when better conditions of living are reached, be dignified and honored with accessories befitting man's improved estate, and on a level with the best, which he has to bestow upon himself.
These considerations will serve to explain in part the changes which public worship has undergone in its external aspects in our country, since the Apostle of Virginia, Robert Hunt, gathered the settlers of Jamestown into the log church to celebrate and partake of the Holy Sacrifice, or Richard Seymour, on the coast of Maine, knelt with his flock to receive the Holy Communion, beneath the open sky. Wealth and civilization brought with them gradually, improvements in all the details of living, in dwellings, and furniture, and food, and clothing, and style, and fashion, and outward pomp and show. This must needs be, and it implies in itself nothing amiss, unless man sets h'\s heart upon these things. As an end, then, they become a snare, and the test whether this is so or not may be with some considerable degree of certainty applied, when the question is asked, does man bring up his expenditure in the cause of religion to a level with his outlay upon himself? "Does he himself dwell in an house of cedar, while the ark of the Lord remaineth within curtains?"
Fairly well it seems to me our forefathers will abide this test, and if our Church failed to put on her beautiful garments in colonial days, and the first years of our national life, the cause was not to be sought entirely in indifference to the claims of God upon their liberality, and a spirit of sordid worldliness, but to ignorance, as we have already stated, of the value of the trusts committed to their keeping, and mistaken ideas of man's duty towards God, not only to worship Him in holiness, but to worship Him in the beauty of holiness.
The awakening came, thank God, in our Mother Church, and the throbs of renewed life were felt here. Personal religion was developed, historic truth was uncovered, and Churchmen saw and heard and felt and understood, as they had not for two centuries and more. With returning consciousness came gradually the realization of where they were, and the conception of what they ought to be. They recognized, to some extent, their deadness, their ignorance, their incapacity to use their material heritage, and to appreciate their spiritual possessions, and they sought, as speedily as possible, to recover themselves, and become what they were in duty bound to be. We must not be surprised that in this transition period, which is not ended even yet, mistakes of various kinds were made and copied here. The only wonder is that so great conservatism prevailed as to steady us and keep us within bounds, when there was within and without and around on every side so much to stimulate and excite and unbalance.
In this discussion we are mainly concerned with worship in its conception and purpose, and here the great revival of the present century in its stages of developement and progress, has scattered the mists and dissipated the clouds, which through human agency in fanaticism and blindness had been generated and drawn around our Saviour's teaching and command, "This do in remembrance of Me."
Preaching in prayers and sermons outside the Church had usurped the place of the Sacraments, and the distressing influence of such disloyalty to Christ had fallen like a blighting, infectious miasma upon the Church herself, especially here in our land, when she was so weak and small.
The Holy Communion was neglected. It was rarely celebrated, four or six times in the year was the rule. The attractions of the ordinary Morning and Evening Prayer were stripped away from the breaking of bread. It was jostled into a corner, but few attended, and they were looked upon as penitents, to be pitied, rather than as servants, to be envied, who were lifted up and advanced to be the guests of their Lord.
The Church of the present time is beginning to grasp the truth that the centre, the heart of worship, is the approach to God, which our Lord has opened, that its essence is giving, and that the gifts, which we ought to offer, He puts into our hands to bring, even Himself, as our sin offering, our burnt offering, our peace offering, and our thank offering; that He is the sermon which instructs, as in a drama, by word and action; the prayer which prevails, as the great Intercessor; the entreaty, which successfully deprecates evil, as the all-sufficient Saviour, and the embodiment of praise, and thanksgiving, and adoration, as the Son of Man, pure and spotless, "who hath never walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful."
The worship of the future in our land, we have the faith to believe, will realize the brightest and best hopes of the present.
The revelation before the eyes of men, of the priceless treasures which the Church of God holds in trust for the healing of the nations, will have the same effect precisely, which our incarnate Lord produced when He disclosed in any degree His Godhead. Many fell away and followed no more with Him; they took up stones to cast at Him.
The law of the Head is the law of the body, and the mutual relations of Christ and of His Church, and of the world in which they live are identical. Their fortunes and experiences are the same. The Master told us that they would be. "If they have persecuted me they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also." (St. John xv. 20.) This prophecy has been fulfilled hitherto, and it will be to the end. When Jesus proclaimed his personality, His true character, He applied the test, which made men judge themselves before the time. They either left Him or drew near to Him. His miracles of feeding and healing satisfied earthly needs, and alleviated physical suffering, and crowds followed Him, but His proclamation of a divine Presence and a Redeemer from sin gave offence, and almost all forsook Him.
While His Church preaches in sermons and prayers, and sings in sensuous music and songs inspired by earthly passion, and makes the alleviation of bodily ills her chief, if not her only business, men will flock to her as they would to the lyceum or the opera, or to the almshouse or the hospital. But let the Church avow her vocation to be the bringing the Saviour to mankind, to pardon their sins, to fill them with His Spirit, and to nourish them with His Body and Blood, and forthwith many fall away. Let her teach whatsoever the Lord hath commanded her, nothing more and nothing less, on His authority, and minister the Sacraments as He hath ordained, immediately many are offended and depart.
The worship of the future, of the century soon to open upon us, will more and more apply the touchstone to men's consciences as our Lord applied it, as He drew nearer to his passion, because as our Lord revealed Himself more and more towards the end, until at last He declared Himself to be the Son of God, and provoked the demand, "Crucify Him, crucify Him," so will it be with His Church; the past fifty years and the near future must make manifest to the unbelieving world the divine and tremendous claims of the Church, and the world will draw out and off and take more decidedly than ever the seat of the scornful, if not the place of the persecutor.
The worship of the present, as it glides into that of the future, will bring out more and more plainly the glorious truths of revelation, that the ever blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, are not only the Objects of our adoration, but the Inspirers and Helpers of our worship. It will be known by those who worship, and understood by those, who behold such worship, that the Church is approaching God in a supernatural manner, that God opens the way, that God provides the offering, and that God gives the will and strength to draw near to Him and offer.
It will be recognized by all, whether they allow or reject the claim, that the worship of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is the gift of God, and involves the cooperation of the three Persons of the Adorable Trinity. The Father gives the Son to be the one offering, full, complete and sufficient, and the Son, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and offered Himself, by the Eternal Spirit, gives the Spirit to inspire and cleanse the soul, and open the lips, and the Father is over all the fountain of eternal generation, in the gift of the Son, and of Eternal procession in the gift of the Holy Ghost. Every good gift in nature, and every perfect gift in grace "is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights, with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning."
The effect will be, when these hidden truths are uncovered and brought out into the light, and men recognize them, whether as accepting them or rejecting them, that there will be a parting asunder one from the other. The world power will come, as did Cain, with its fruits of the Earth, the product of its own labor, to offer unto God, and will exult in its own greatness as it takes delight in itself, its genius, its many inventions, its progress, its success, and makes God, whom it will refine into a splendid unreality, the crown of its own self adulation.
The Church of God will come, as did Abel, with the Lamb for an offering, whom God has provided, she will come as walking in the Spirit in dutiful obedience to Him, Who bids her come and makes her welcome, even the Eternal Father. Under these two leaderships men will be drawn, the spirit of Cain will animate and assimilate the one, and the faith and devotion of Abel will marshall the other under the banner of the Cross.
The perilous times, of which the Apostle speaks by word of prophecy, are the last days, the future, which lies just in advance of us, and opens up a prospect, which he by inspiration describes, and which we begin to see. The world power is back of it with its splendid civilization, its wealth, its luxury, its lavish expenditure, its apparent good nature and kindliness, and its indifference to truth. It is the net product of optimism, of the spirit of Cain, the self sufficiency of man, and the Apostle thus sums it up in a frightful catalogue of details: "Men," he says, "shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." (2 Tim. iii. 2-5.) This describes the future as it lies beneath our gaze as to the great mass of men. They refuse the supernatural, their sufficiency is of themselves, if they wait upon God, it will be more in name than in reality, they recognize no need of God, and their assembling together is in reality to please themselves in prayer and sermon and music addressed to themselves. They must be pleased, and entertained. In a word they must receive, deference must be shown to them, and their demand will be, it is the acme of self importance, "if Thou be the Son of God come down from the Cross, and we will believe on Thee," as though they were the centre of the universe around whom everything revolved, as though Calvary and its redemptive work must be given up as the price of securing their adhesion and patronage. Could presumption go further and be more hateful and distressing?
On the other hand, the near future brings into view God's Church sheltered under God's sovereignty, with His blessed Word in her keeping, as her chart of government, and organic life, and official administration, and His worship as her supreme business and vocation, fulfilling Jesus' final word to us, revealed after the Holy Gospel narratives were closed, "it is more blessed to give than to receive," in making daily her one offering, which speaketh better things than that of Abel, since it pleads for pardon and applies for salvation to every faithful soul, the full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice of the Cross.
More and more, and quickly too, men will draw apart into their opposite camps of open infidelity or the worship of humanity, and the worship of God. This worship of God may and probably will secure the following of the comparatively few, but be they few or many, the secret of the Lord will be among them. Victory will be in reserve for their banners as it was for Abraham's servants when they returned from the slaughter of the Kings, for Gideon's three hundred, when they discomfited the Midianites, for the seven thousand, who had not bowed the knee to Baal, whom God knew and commended to His lonely prophet, and "the little flock," as our Lord pathetically called them who converted the world. The Church of the future in these United States will stand on her own foundations, and they are sure and steadfast, "the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone." She has from the beginning represented true Catholicity, but now it is her province, since the Vatican decrees of 1870 have committed the See of Rome to the sin of revolutionising Christ's charter of government for His Church, it is her province to bear witness alone in the West with the Mother Church of England to true Catholicity as the day of Pentecost saw it, and as the Canons of the General Councils define it and protect it. This she will do in days to come with stronger emphasis in teaching, and greater faithfulness in administration than in the past. Her worship in the future will more largely in daily and weekly Eucharists all over our land keep open the way which leads to Bethlehem and Calvary, and the vacant tomb, and the throne of God in heaven.
This worship centres in the One Offering whereby we do show forth the Lord's death until He come, but its circumference sweeps around and embraces all other services and devotions and unites them with the supreme act of giving to God divine gifts together with "ourselves, our souls and bodies to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice unto Him." This worship, this more frequent intercourse with God in His appointed and consecrated way, will make the Church of the future stronger than ever as a protest against error, more vigorous and decisive in holding up the truth, and more fruitful in good works.
We have not stopped to inquire about ritual, because it was beyond our object, if is enough to say that he who recognizes the fact that he is in the divine Presence, and is engaged in offering the Christian Passover, will be, must be reverent, and this apprehension of the Lord's nearness will secure that all things shall be done decently and in order. Let us, dear brethren, do our part to hasten this blessed future bright with so glorious a prospect. The present is the preparation for the future, and we therefore must make ready now for what is to be. The Eternal Father gave us His Only Begotten Son at Christmas. The Eternal Son sends to us the Holy Ghost as at this time, Pentecost, from the Father. Gift upon gift is bestowed upon us, our Christmas gift and our Pentecostal gift, and we are ready, ought to be ready, with such helps, and such blessings to draw near to God in holy worship.