STEDFAST IN THE FAITH:
PREACHED, BY APPOINTMENT OF THE BISHOP,
BEING ALSO THE
IN S. JOHN'S CHURCH, PROVIDENCE, R. I.,
PRINTED BY REQUEST OF MEMBERSOF THE CONVENTION.
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012
Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith.—I. St. Peter, v., 8, 9.
The foes against which the Christian has sworn eternal enmity are three, the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.
The World, being a set of circumstances, a condition, may, in course of time, be modified in appearance and manifestations.
The Flesh, being a nature, may be modified by the influence upon it of the Sacrifice and Example, and Life of JESUS CHRIST.
But the Devil, being a person, while restrained by the power of the Cross and the spreading of the Incarnate Life, is not modified in the same way as our other enemies. He preserves the identity of a person, with all the fixedness in evil of an abandoned intelligence. Therefore the intensity and reality and persistency of the Christian's conflict are involved in that mysterious and unseen person, who dogs and haunts the ways and works of GOD and man.
 For, at this late day, the old battle is still on. We are soldiers on guard, soldiers in the field, soldiers in the presence of the enemy. That enemy is the same old enemy, "your adversary, the Devil." He has not grown old or feeble. He walks about the earth, about Rhode Island, as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Right here, we have to meet and withstand a world flushed with material success, a world full of greed, a world afflicted with grave social diseases of impurity, of dishonesty, of profanity, of infidelity. Carnal appetites and excesses sap manly strength, and waste the good things of human nature. But beyond and outside these are the power and craft and subtilty of the great antagonist of man and of GOD.
It is well for us to recognize this fact of that spiritual personality, unseen but real, which is opposing us and all who, naming the name of CHRIST and having the Lord's seal, would depart from iniquity. It might be said that the World is the leading enemy. In apostolic days, the World was a very wicked and hostile World. It was a World plainly in evidence. And yet it was not the World, insolent and cruel as it was, which the Apostles noted as the principal enemy. Behind the veil of the World was the Adversary, the Devil. Bad and vast and strong as the World then seemed, that World was not the worst nor the most formidable enemy. Behind the evil World, [4/5] worse and stronger than the world, was the One, the Evil One.
To-day the World may seem milder, weaker, and better than it was then, but still, behind it, behind its vice, its vanity, its wealth, and its wickedness, lurks the same Accuser to make men hate GOD, and hate each other.
Facing this malignant genius of the World is drawn up the array of the Gospel; that ordered, disciplined array, known otherwise as the Church of the Living GOD. We are here, in line and rank, uniformed and equipped, in our place. And meeting together, under these circumstances, as a Diocese, as one of the constituent units of the Catholic Church, it is natural for us to feel how we are standing in a column along which, as from another world, pass to us voices of Apostolic warriors and martyrs of other ages, who yet speak to us not merely of their day, but of our own.
As a body of Catholic Christians, coming together in council, we are carried straight back to first principles, and, speaking after the manner of Earth and of Time, to the very youth of the Church. We are something more than a few clergymen, and a number of parish congregations. We never can assemble in a synodical, corporate capacity, without a certain sense of Time being destroyed and space annihilated. In the presence of the Sacred Ministers, uttering the [5/6] Faith of the Three Persons in One GOD, celebrating the Holy Sacraments of JESUS CHRIST, worshipping in the Showing of CHRIST's Death, it might be the year 34 as well as the year 1894. As we take order for the maintenance of the Kingdom of GOD, we are not only in Providence, we are at Jerusalem, at Nicaea, at Constantinople, at Ephesus, at Chalceden. For what do we mean, when we speak of the Church? Do we mean a society, which we are constrained to respect and admire, because it is ancient, but which is, after all, only a society of men, and by men? Far from it. We venerate the Church, not because it has lasted so long, but because it came into existence by the Will and Word Of JESUS CHRIST and survives by His good pleasure. We mean the society which, with all the names together, numbered only an hundred and twenty—not a respectable congregation for this parish Church—but which was nevertheless at the very same time the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of all the Earth and of all ages. We mean that society which saw JESUS CHRIST ascend into Heaven in His Risen Body of Flesh and Bones, and which looks to see this same JESUS so come in like manner as it saw him go into Heaven. We mean the society on which the Holy Ghost in tongues of fire descended, the society which baptized for the Remission of Sins and the Gift of the Holy Ghost, the society which possessed the treasure [6/7] of the Body and Blood of CHRIST, the society which is the Pillar and Ground of the Truth, and the Witness and Keeper of Holy Writ.
This is the Church rooted and grounded in GOD, the Church of the Present and the Church of the Future, because it is the Church of the Past, and the Church of the Past, Present and Future, because it is the Body of CHRIST. It comes preaching peace by JESUS CHRIST, peace as the price and fruit of war. CHRIST is the Prince of Peace, but He came to send a sword. The peace which we proclaim, whose powers we dispense is, first of all, peace with GOD. For without peace with GOD there can be no peace between man and man. Peace with GOD means reconciliation through the cleansing Blood of CHRIST. It means entire and loving submission to and acceptance of GOD'S word. His word is truth. And fidelity to the truth, which to some men will seem foolishness, and to others a stumbling-block, fidelity to the truth, the keeping of peace with GOD, may and oftentimes will involve clamour, din, controversy and strife of tongues.
It is our vocation to fight the good fight of faith, to contend earnestly for the Faith. Our enemy makes it necessary for us to fight for the Faith. The Devil is the father of lies, falsehood is the very sign and characteristic of our adversary. If the World is false in its maxims, its ambitions, its precepts, its aims, its [7/8] friendships, if the flesh offer but a false pleasure, a false joy, artificial excitements and gratifications, if the Faith be denied, evaded, altered, there is one ultimate fount of all this deceit and falsehood. It is the Devil's work, the originator, instigator, author and finisher of falsehood. Let us not underrate our warfare nor our enemy. During our fighting term we must do what we can. Let us take this direction for our campaign: "Whom resist stedfast in the Faith." That is to say, stedfastness in the Faith, the best way to fight the battles of the Lord of Hosts.
If we admit that we have a great spiritual adversary, who furnishes inspiration for the World and the Flesh to fight against GOD, if we admit that we have in this Diocese, in this State, in our communities, in our own lives, in our own hearts this adversary to resist, we cannot afford to neglect this counsel, this order from the Holy Ghost—"Stedfast in the Faith."
That Faith is the Faith of JESUS CHRIST. It is the simple Faith. It is the Faith which St. Peter taught on the Day of Pentecost, and yet it is fresh as eternity. It is the Faith once delivered to the saints, [*Revised Version] once for all delivered. It is the Faith of Him of Whom it is said, "Thou art the same and Thy years shall not fail." He has overcome the World. He alone can purify the flesh and make our sinful bodies clean by His Body. [8/9] He alone can beat down Satan under our feet. In Him alone can we go forth in confidence and hope. He is stronger than the strong. JESUS CHRIST is all. He filleth all in all. Being such He must not be named in any hesitating or faltering terms. The very Person of JESUS CHRIST determines the character of the Faith. JESUS CHRIST is God, God of God, very God of very God. And what we call the Faith is the testimony of God as to Himself. Good were it for all to bear in mind the words of St. Hilary concerning those who treat of heavenly things—"there is need of the new feelings of a regenerate mind that a man's own conscience may illuminate him according to the gift of heavenly origin. Conscious of having been made a partaker of the Divine Nature, let him measure it not by the laws of his own nature, but according to the magnificence of God's witness concerning Himself. When, therefore, we discourse of the things of God, let us concede the knowledge of Himself to GOD, and wait on His sayings with pious veneration. For He is a fitting witness to Himself, who is not known save through Himself." [*De Trinitate—Quoted by Owen, "Treatise of Dogmatic Theology," Chapter IV.] The Church calls the Faith a true [Collect for Trinity Sunday.] Faith. It rings with the decisiveness and positiveness of absolute truth. Of whatever else we may be doubtful, [9/10] we are sure of this. It is GOD'S "witness to Himself, who is not known save through Himself."
Such being the nature of the Faith; it is no wonder that we are bidden to be "stedfast" in it.
Let me ask your attention to this word "stedfast." It is a very forcible word, i.e., solid, stiff, inflexible. It is the word familiar to us in the word stereotype. The word type, is also used in the New Testament, in the Epistle to the Romans, [VI. 17.] and it is used of the Faith, as a fixed, unalterable form or mould. In this type Christians are to be, fixed, stiff, and inflexible. St. Peter enjoins just this stereotyped fidelity to the Faith. And it is just this quality of the Faith which the Devil most hates, and of which the worldly spirit most complains. The World chafes and grumbles and murmurs because the Creed is fixed and stiff, and does not change. The World talks incessantly about recasting, remoulding the Faith. The more carefully we examine the language of Holy Scripture the more plainly shall we see how utterly opposed is all such talk to the Mind and Will and Word of GOD.
The Faith speaks in a clear tone with no uncertain sound. The Faith, as we are taught it, is a certain [Book of Common Prayer, "Office for Visitation of the Sick."] Faith. Being GOD'S witness to Himself, it must be consistent with itself. It cannot deny in one age what it [10/11] affirmed in another. Of the dogmas of the Faith, those central dogmas which concern the Person of JESUS CHRIST—Canon Scott-Holland has well remarked—"They are statements of what He must be, if He is what our hearts assure us; if He can do for us that for which our wills tender Him their lifelong self-surrender. Unless these rational conditions stand, then no act of Faith is justifiable. Unless His Personality correspond to these assertions, we can never be authorized in worshipping Him. But, if so, then we can commit ourselves to these dogmas in the same way and degree as we commit ourselves to Him. We can do so in the absolute assurance that He cannot but abide forever that which we know Him to be to-day. We know Him indeed, but in part; but it is part of a fixed and integral character, which is whole in every part, and can never falsify, in the future, the revelation, which it has already made of itself.
If we are in a position to have any faith in JESUS CHRIST, then we must suppose that we have arrived at the One Centre to all possible experiences, the One Focus under which all sights must fall. To believe in Him at all is to believe that by and in this Man will GOD judge the world. In His Personality, in His character, we are in possession of the ultimate principle, under which the final estimate of all things will be taken. We have given us, in His sacrifice and mission, [11/12] the absolute rule, standard, test, right to the very end. Nothing can fall outside it. In Him GOD has summed up Creation. We have touched in Him, the 'last days,' the ultimate stage of all development. We cannot believe in Him at all, and not believe that His message is final. And it is this finality which justifies dogma. If Christianity is final, it can afford to be dogmatic; and we, who give our adhesion to it, must, in so doing, profess our adhesion to the irreversible nature of its inherent principles; for, in so doing, we are but reasserting our belief in the absolute and final sufficiency of His Person." [*Lux Mundi—"Faith."]
Yes, it is the Person, the Divine Person of JESUS CHRIST, Which renders the Faith supreme and unalterable. When He is the Object and the Centre of belief, it is not surprising that the Church's voice maintains its utterance, a voice in which there is no break, a voice in which there is nothing indistinct, a voice whose accents all men, the simple, the unlearned, the wayfaring men can hear and understand. The most effectual antidote to false teaching is the firm and full enunciation of the Faith. The Devil chiefly works by fraud, disguises, and alloying of the Truth. The heresies and false teachings with which the Church of old fought in the good fight of Faith were systems, of which it might have been said that there was a great [12/13] deal of good in them. Yet there was in them that which conflicted with the Faith handed down. These systems were challenged, checked, convicted of falsehood and overcome by the sharp, unmistakable declarations, with which the great Creeds of the Church still echo. Gnosticism, and Arianism, and all the others might have pleaded that they could show much good in life and individual character. These dashed themselves against those adamantine walls of dogmatic statement before whose stedfastness, the Devil's most specious and deceptive efforts fall and come to nought. Those systems are strewn along the pages of Church history as curious names. The Creed that stood fast and rebuked and destroyed them is a living Creed still standing fast on lips and in men's hearts to-day.
Even so, in this our day, there are schools of false teaching, Spiritualism, Christian Science, Theosophy, Naturalism, Rationalistic Criticism, and others, in which their followers, their Christian followers, assure us that they find much truth and goodness. It may be so. They are none the less works of the Devil for all that. As systems they are false and irreconcilable with the Faith of the Ages. Long ago St. Augustine spoke concerning this. He said: "It is more necessary to use all our powers of discrimination and judgment when Satan transforms himself into an angel of light . . . if, feigning himself to be good, he does or says the [13/14] things that befit good angels, and we believe him to be good, the error is not one that is hurtful or dangerous to the Christian Faith. But when, through these means, which are alien to his nature, he goes on to lead us into courses of his own, then great watchfulness is necessary to detect and refuse to follow him." [Enchiridion, LX.] This mixture of good and evil in new and strange forms of Religion, wherein Satan says some true things is that very fraud and craft of our Adversary of which we need specially to beware, and which we must resist most sturdily by Stedfastness in the Faith.
We were baptized in this Faith. That is, we were born in it, and it was born in us. It is our very life, and we might as reasonably doubt and dispute our own existence as to allow for one moment that it is an open question whether any article of it is entirely true. If the Faith be debatable in its own household, if it go forth lame and incoherent in expression, it can never command stedfast following.
A divided mind is as bad in its way as a divided heart. We might say that a divided mind will often make a heart divided just as a heart not whole with GOD is frequently the cause of a divided mind. There has been of late years, there is still, a distressing, a harmful way of dealing with the Creed, as if it were far from being a certain Faith, as if it could be denied in [14/15] part by Christian men. We are told continually what kind of Creed the "thinking" men demand. There are "thinking" men, and "thinking" men. There are "thinking" men, who are not all the time exploiting their great intellects and vaunting their great thoughts, but who are giving themselves, in simplicity, and straightforwardness and Godly sincerity, using language, not to obscure and conceal, but to express thought, giving themselves, with all their souls, and with all their hearts, and with all their minds (and their minds are inferior to none) to the stedfast upholding of the Faith and Law of GOD. To these "thinking" men, who are not the show, crack-militia, dress-parade thinkers, but the "regulars" in practical thinking and doing, to these this trifling with and denial of the Creed as a certain Faith is an offense. They feel how it brings the Church and the Faith into contempt.
Some two or three years ago a layman, grown old in honorable service for the Church, said to me, "I would like to propose an amendment to the Prayer Book: In the Baptismal Office, at the question, 'Dost thou believe all the Articles of the Christian Faith as contained in the Apostles' Creed?' to the answer 'I do' I would insert a marginal note to this effect: If any person hath scruple about answering "I do," he can say "I do not," which are considered as words of the same meaning in this Church.'" That keen sarcasm [15/16] sets sharply before us the wretched spectacle, which semi-infidel dealing with the Creed presents to a reverent and honest mind. Is not such sarcasm justified when the Virgin-Birth of the SON of GOD is assailed, when the Ascension is preached of as "the Excarnation of the Incarnation" (which evidently must be intended to mean that the Ascension was the putting off by our Lord of the Nature He assumed when He became Incarnate), when we are told that "there is nothing to point to the personal Second Advent of Christ," that "the Coming of Christ means the advent of a higher, a nobler humanity, the recognition of truth by all mankind," when the Resurrection is handled in such fashion as to leave a painful doubt in the hearer's mind, whether the preacher meant by the Resurrection of the Body anything more than the Immortality of the Soul?
Not long ago I heard a judge, a Massachusetts judge, too, and in Boston, say that it was a shame and a disgrace that within the Church, any one, clergyman or layman, should be found to discredit or speculate upon or bring into question any Article of the Christian Faith. "Sin," he went on to say, "is at the bottom of every doubt." This was the sentiment of a "thinking" man, and in the thought and prayers of such the noblest and best life of the Church stand stedfast in the Faith to save souls from the lion's mouth.
 A cloudy unsteadiness in regard to the Faith is one of the surest ways to let in the Devil. Men think to magnify the Faith by straining it through the clogged-up filter of their darkened minds instead of accepting it as revealed and accomplished in the Providence of GOD. They become impatient at the repetition year after year of the same words, and they disdain the literalness of the Faith which believes just what the words say. They become aweary of the simple witness which the Church has given and must give. It is the old story over again. Prof. Mozley tells it in graphic manner of the Nicene Fathers—and their experience might be ours to-day—"Their argument, on every occasion of heresy arising, was one and the same thing, viz., that they had received a certain doctrine from the first, and that this heresy was contrary to it. They said, 'This is the old doctrine that we have, the old doctrine, which the Apostles delivered, which has been the doctrine of the Church ever since, which we received from our predecessors as they received it from theirs, and which we now here maintain as we received it. The same, the very same,' they repeated; they professed to hold it because it was the same, and for that reason only. They would not receive or listen to any other, for the simple reason that that other was not the same. They shut their ears, in horror, the very sound of novelty shocked them, and they seemed polluted [17/18] by the mere contact of their ears with it. 'Who ever heard of such things?' was the universal cry of the Orthodox on Arianism appearing. 'Who is not astounded at them?' The Arians positively ridiculed the extreme and obstinate simplicity of their arguments; they taunted the Nicene Fathers with being poor, unintellectual men, who neither had nor put forward any reasoning whatever as the basis of their doctrine, but kept on one unceasing, unvarying, untiring appeal to simple fact. They would have drawn them by taunts from this ground, but the Nicene Fathers were not to be taunted off a ground of which they were sure. And they went on, and the whole Church with them, appealing uno ore to a simple fact; asserting uno ore that the doctrine they had, and which they now at the Nicene Council enunciated was the same, very same, self-same, original doctrine, which the Apostles had delivered and handed down." ["Theory of Development," pp. 166, 167.]
That same tenacious stedfastness, obstinacy, if with the Arians any chooses so to consider it, in regard to the Faith, we must have, if, when sounded we are to give out the true Nicaean ring, and show the old Nicaean spirit of confessorship. Look out for spurious conceptions of the Catholic Church and Faith by which many are now in danger of falling from their [18/19] own stedfastness. What does the term "Catholic" mean? It is a fitting time for us to contrast the false and true conceptions. The false would virtually make the Catholic Church to be what has been called an "intellectual aristocracy." [Owen—"Treatise of Dogmatic Theology—of the Catholic Church."] It would scornfully say that "the grand development of human reason from Aristotle down to Hegel is a great spiritual unity far transcending that of the unthinking members of the Catholic Church." [Pattison—"Memoirs," p. 210—quoted by Owen.] "Something of this feeling led the Carpocratian Gnostics to adore Homer and Pythagoras along with JESUS and Paul. They were alike regarded as princes in a realm of thought." [Owen—ut supra.]
Radically opposed to this idea, in which a Faith, fixed and delivered once for all, is no element, stands the old historical and theological conception of the Catholic Church, "gathered in CHRIST'S Name through Baptism," and holding and guarding, as well as living in the power of, the One, True Faith received.
The Church from which stedfastness in the Faith is inseparable, is Catholic for two reasons. Its message and commission carry it to every creature, make it Catholic, i. e., universal. In it is "neither Greek nor Jew, Circumcision nor Uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free."
 Again the Church is Catholic because in the explanation of S. Pacian, an ancient Father, "When, after the Apostles' time, heresies existed, and by different names endeavored to tear by bits and rend GOD'S Dove and Queen, did not the Apostolic people require a surname in order to distinguish its unity, lest the error of some should through her members lacerate the unsullied Virgin of GOD? Was it not becoming that the principal section should be marked by its proper appellation? When I perchance had entered a populous city at the present day, and found Marcionites, Apollinarians, Cataphrygians, Novatianists and the rest of that sort, who call themselves Christians, by what surname should I have recognized the congregation of my people unless it were called Catholic?" "Christian is my name, but Catholic is my surname. That names me, this distinguishes me. By this I am approved, by the former am I signified." [Quoted by Owen—"Treatise of Dogmatic Theology."]
And so—comments on this a distinguished Theologian—"the term 'Catholic' came eventually to denote the orthodox Church of the original stock, which could claim an historical identity and continuity with the primary societies of Apostolic foundation, as distinct from the new sects, which from time to time attempted an independent existence; and when we profess to believe 'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church,' [20/21] such profession is tantamount to a declaration of adherence to the Main Body of Believers, coming down to our own times in unbroken succession from the Apostles, the cradle and earthly home of GOD'S Elect People; and therefore, with whatever shortcomings and incidental errors (however paradoxical the assertion may be), spiritually and in the sight of GOD and His Angels, the pure and immaculate Spouse of CHRIST. It will be seen that this conception aims at embracing all that is morally noble in humanity, but presupposes the preaching of the Gospel to every creature (a condition as yet unfulfilled), and is silent as to intellectual aristocracy. That silence offends 'the Greeks' or Humanists now as of old." [*Owen—ut supra—Of the Catholic Church.]
REVEREND FATHER IN GOD:
At the outset of your benign and happy rule over this Diocese, in your Primary Charge, you spoke in the very spirit of that Stedfastness in the Faith which I have chosen as my theme to-day. You then spoke as one of the rigid conservators of the Faith. In that admirable Charge, you uttered these words:
"We must rigidly adhere to the simplicity of the Faith, as we have received it from the beginning.
 "It is not so much the intellectual argument for the Gospel, which ensures its hold upon society, as the stated, quiet influence of Christian Rites and Services. And there is an awakening consciousness in many quarters that a chaste and spiritual Ritualism must be brought into greater prominence, if we would arrest the evil tendencies of the times.
"The ritual instinct that belongs to humanity, cannot be permanently repressed. Nature, with its gorgeous temple of worship, its melodious sounds, its splendid drapery, its daily matins and vespers, and its yearly calendar, ministers to this instinct. [Primary Charge, 1855—"The Position of the Church"—pp. 15, 16.]
"If it were practicable to bring our liturgical services into better accordance with the original arrangement, instead of blending them together as we now do; if the Eucharistic Office could be restored to the prominence which it had in primitive times, instead of being introduced, as it now is, as a mere Appendix to other services; if there could be a judicious revision of the Calendar, with a view to bringing every thing, on fast, or festival, into accordance with what should be the key-note of the day; and if we could have in our churches a pure and more ecclesiastical style of music; the ritual want of which we have spoken would be much better provided for than it is at present." [Primary Charge, p. 17.]
 These words of yours, Reverend Father, at this point of time, both as we look back and as we look forward, strike one as the words of a prophet. [It is intended, in the following paragraphs, to pay a grateful tribute to that amiable and liberal spirit of Bishop Clark, which has permitted these Catholic features of Church life and growth. The writer is convinced that these will stand as the abiding results of the Bishop's long term of office.] For when your Episcopate shall have passed into history—and may that day be very far off—I believe that it will stand out as, on the whole, an epoch of a great reassertion of Catholic Faith and Practice, in this Diocese. The beautiful Churches and garnished Altars, such as we see here before us, [The massive Altar of S. John's Church, in which this sermon was preached, is vested in a magnificent red velvet frontal and super-frontal, worked in gold by the Sisters of the Holy Nativity, and is ornamented with a stately brass Cross, flower vases, and a pair of seven-branched candlesticks, all of which were the offering of a devout parishioner, and placed by consent of Rector and Vestry formally given.] the frequent services, the "chaste and spiritual Ritualism" everywhere growing in our worship, the strengthening and deepening perception of the Divine Nature of the Church and Sacraments, the remarkable interest and enthusiasm for the Church developed among men, the settlement among us of a Sisterhood, the restoration more and more of the Eucharistic Office "to the prominence which it had in primitive times," these features and events, dear Father, will give shape and unfading distinctness to the years of your administration of the [23/24] Bishop's office here. These are the things which are going to last as permanent memorials and landmarks of your Episcopate. Men will look back to it as the days when they began to worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness, when they gained a worthier idea of the Church, and awoke to the consciousness that the Episcopal Church is not a puny local sect, but a fruitful bough of the One, great, world-wide, Catholic Tree.
And now, as surrounded by your Clergy and People here to-day—in this the Mother-Church of the chief city of your See—you survey that long period of forty years for which you have occupied the episcopal throne, I am sure that you could wish no greater joy than to feel that your children have been preserved stedfast in the Faith, and that walking in the Truth they have valiantly resisted the great Adversary of all Truth. It is a foremost and glorious part of the Bishop's office to defend the Faith. And in the fulfilment of that high trust and privilege, what can you wish more fervently for the time to come than that the bravery, and fearlessness, and enthusiasm of the old Nicaean devotion to the Faith may prevail among us all, that we may uphold your hands in the arduous task of leading on to victory the army of the Lord?
I am reminded here of some wise words of yours in still another Charge to the Clergy of this Diocese, [24/25] which I trust you will allow me to repeat. They are these: "It is easy to see what will not meet our necessities.
"A neutral-tinted liberalism, a compromise between truth and error, a twilight of Faith in which nothing is distinct and clearly defined, a belief from which all the positive elements have been eliminated will not suffice. The disease with which we have to contend requires heroic remedies; the moral atmosphere that we breathe is not to be disinfected with rose-water. We are called to deal with a people possessed with divers and rampant lusts, and it is the right eye that is to be plucked out and the right hand that is to be cut off, and this involves an agony to which they will never submit, until we make them feel that they must do this or die. There is an uproar and babbling and vain strife of tongues, filling the air with tumult, which nothing can penetrate but the loud thunders of Sinai.
"The substance of Truth remains the same, generation after generation. It is the same doctrine, the same Holy Spirit, the same Gospel, that once lifted the nations of Europe out of barbarism, which alone can save this American Republic from lapsing into barbarism." [Fourth Triennial Charge, 1867—"Lack of Religious Culture fatal to our Public and Social System."]
 These weighty words of yours, Reverend Father, are worthy of a Defender of the Faith. We shall do well to take heed to them now. They remind us that the doctrine, the Gospel, which lifted the nations of Europe out of barbarism was the Catholic Faith in the Catholic Church. The Gospel which wrought that gracious work was not diluted with Rationalism nor charged with "philosophic gas." [Dr. Morgan Dix.] It was the Gospel as JESUS CHRIST delivered it, enshrined in His Mystical Body, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, with its Ministry, Faith, Sacraments, and Worship, not of man's device, but of GOD'S appointment and ordaining. Strong stedfastness in the Faith makes a strong Religion and a strong Church. It makes it strong in organization, strong in practical activities, strong in works of mercy, strong in personal consecration, self-sacrifice and self-denial. History shows that the spirit of stedfastness in the Faith, the spirit that jealously guards, and hands down, is the spirit that works, and prays, and builds, and gives the Church vigor and glory. The history of our own Anglican Communion shows this. I wonder at—I even admire, the audacity which, with such a history before it, can imagine that the spirit of trust and guardianship, the spirit which keeps watch and ward round the Faith, is a spirit which leaves others to do the work. The spirit, that [26/27] has renewed spiritually the face of the earth, that has built Churches, and thrown Churches open freely, and kept the fire of daily devotion glowing on their Altars, and developed the glorious fruitage of the Religious Life, [*It is said on good authority that there are more Sisters in England to-day than there were before the Reformation.] the spirit that has led the way in founding Schools, and Hospitals, and Homes, the spirit that has done this, that has brought the Catholic Faith down into the daily habits of the people, is the spirit that believes in and contends for the Faith as once for all delivered, the spirit—you may call it the spirit of eternal repetition if you wish—the spirit of everlasting permanence, of stedfastness in the Faith, of successful resistance to the Devil.
Reverend Father in GOD, we have but lately heard you joining in the unanimity of the American Episcopate, in bravely defending the Ministry of Apostolic Succession and declining to listen to any proposal to deprave the Sacramental character of the Sacred Ministry in the interest of a fictitious unity. When you so nobly wrote that epigrammatic sentence that, [In a recent number of the "Independent."] "if one fence is thrown down, all the fences must go," a thrill of satisfaction went through the whole Anglican Church, and your words were hailed with approbation, not only in America but in England.
May I not venture to act as spokesman for you and [27/28] for your Diocese, when I propose that, as we plead, at this Altar, the Merits of CHRIST'S Precious Death and Passion, this should be the prayer we raise for the souls under your jurisdiction: "Defend them from the sins of heresy and schism: let not the foot of pride come nigh to hurt them, nor the hand of the ungodly to cast them down. Give them the abundance of Thy Grace; that with one heart they may desire the prosperity of Thy Holy, Apostolic Church, and with one mouth may profess the Faith once delivered to the Saints."
And here and now, we are to exemplify the Apostolic character of the Church.
We re-enact the scene of one of the earliest acts of the original Apostles. We have looked out these three men of honest report, whom we trust are full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom. We set them before the Apostle of CHRIST, who, when he has prayed, will lay his hands upon them.
The Order of Deacons illustrates the gifts and power conferred upon the Church by Her Divine Founder. It was brought into operation when the Apostles deemed it necessary. The Ordinal declares that GOD [The Ordering of Deacons.] inspired the Apostles to choose into the Order of Deacons the first martyr, Saint Stephen, with others. Just how that inspiration came we do not know. [28/29] Whether they had received explicit direction concerning the Diaconate from our Lord Himself, or whether they constituted it in the exercise of their authority and discretion, we cannot say. It had its origin in the Will of JESUS CHRIST, and its establishment by the Apostles shows how thoroughly they were acquainted with His Will concerning His Church. It came forth from the plenitude of the Apostolate, which laid down, at the proper time, the limitations of the office. It became an actuality out of the pressing necessities of the Church. From the Apostles' time there has been this Order in the Church. Its age is the age of the Church. It is necessary, because Apostolic judgment and tradition have deemed and declared it so to be. It is necessary because of the very principle of gradation in GOD'S works and among His intelligent creatures. "One star differeth from another star in glory." Among the Angels of GOD are some who are chief in beauty, honor, and dignity.
And in the mystery of the Divine and Heavenly Kingdom, before honor is Humility. The SON of GOD, as Incarnate, served before He reigned. He humbled Himself before He was exalted. He made this the principle of His Kingdom. "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."
Of Himself, He declared, "I am among you as one that serveth" [*St. Luke, xxii., 26, 27.]—as a Deacon, it literally signifies. Of His Apostles He said, "He that is greatest among you let him be as the younger; and he that is chief as he that doth serve," or as a Deacon. The Deacon, in this root idea of serving is a perpetual witness to the foundation law of CHRIST'S Life and Kingdom.
Good people, you behold the lowest step of the Ministry of CHRIST. That Ministry is His. And being His it is a holy thing. It is a Sacred Ministry. It exists because He pleases. It exists for you. It exists to speak to you of the Love of GOD. The SON of GOD for us became the Son of Man, but He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister. If one partakes of and reflects the Spirit of CHRIST, he must needs be a devoted and consecrated person.
Look upon these young men as called of GOD, and set apart for a special office of GOD towards the souls of men. Help them by your prayers, and willing cooperation, to realize and fulfil their vocation. Help them to magnify their office, by reverencing it yourself, by looking for a spiritual and holy life in them, and by letting them understand that you desire to see them give themselves to GOD, and grow in love of souls. Honor them, as being the recipients of one of the greatest honors a sinful man can possibly receive. Do not try or wish to secularize them, but on [30/31] the other hand let them know that worldly dress, and worldly ways, and worldly habits, and the worldly spirit, are abhorrent to you in the Minister of CHRIST. The esteem and sentiment of the people in regard to the Sacred Ministry may be a most powerful aid to the Ministry itself in forming in it the sense of consecration and a mind given to Heaven, and GOD, and JESUS CHRIST.
My brothers, I earnestly hope that you stand here by the interior leading of the Spirit of GOD. If yours have been lives of prayer and seeking to GOD, He has no doubt given you the ardent wish to glorify Him and to edify His People. And if that be your heart's desire, you can have no doubt that the Holy Ghost has moved you.
And if He has, you can bear witness with a glad heart to what He has taught you of the Sacred Ministry. Woe to the Church, should men approach Her Altars lightly, should they deem the Sacred Ministry a profession, which they can honorably relinquish at any time and exchange for another, should they not unfeignedly believe all the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, should they consider that the Church has no certain and unalterable Faith, which they are in honor pledged to maintain.
My brothers, the Sacred Ministry, according to the mind of the Church in Her Prayer-Book and Offices [31/32] has a most distinct and solemn character. Holy Order in all parts of the Catholic Church is held to be of a Sacramental nature. It is a supernatural vocation and not merely a learned profession. It is indelible. It stamps the soul with a mark from JESUS CHRIST. It places one in a special state of life. It calls for a particular mode of life, which has its own habits, its own rules, its own duties, its own virtues, and, thank GOD, its own special accompanying grace. Let me urge you, my brothers, to regard yourselves as thus called of GOD. Do not try to see how much you can look like and live like men of the world, under the delusion that your influence will thereby be greater. Try to be true Ministers of CHRIST. And GOD, even our Lord JESUS CHRIST, will be with you. He has promised, the Prayer Book says, to be with the Ministers of Apostolic Succession to the end of the world. [Office of Institution.] Into that Succession you are about to enter now.
You will not stop here. You are seeking the Priesthood. Higher functions, and more awful mysteries, please GOD, await you.
Let your Diaconate be a true and profitable probation for the Priesthood. The Deacon is to assist the Priest, and I would suggest that you should keep this idea in mind through the year to come—of being learners, diligent and willing learners. Learn of JESUS CHRIST [33/34] to pray, to love, to wait, to labor and to bear. Learn Holy Scripture. Learn the Theology of the Church. Learn the duties of the Priesthood. Learn to minister the Sacraments, and to perform the Church's Rites and Offices in a becoming manner. It is evident that the Church would make of the Diaconate a period of training for the ordained novice. She provides that "it must be declared unto the Deacon, that he must continue in that office the space of a whole year (except for reasonable causes it shall otherwise seem good unto the Bishop), to the intent he may be perfect and well expert in the things appertaining to the Ecclesiastical Administration."
As you go forth to-day in the dew of your anointing, may you go to begin a year of upbuilding in the ecclesiastical life and acquirements of mind and soul. You will go with authority. The Bishop will say, "Take thou authority." He says it, but the authority of which he bids you take is an authority which he, too, has but received. It is the authority of Him, Who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, Who was dead, and is alive again forever more. He authorizes you. You go in the power of an authority, which can never be dethroned.
Your position is most secure. Use your authority, not as if it began with men, but as proceeding from our Ascended Lord and King, from the Priest upon His Throne. [33/34] Act as those who serve the Most High GOD. "Be sober—be vigilant." "Let your loins be girded about and your lights burning." Be girded with humility and self-discipline. Keep the watch-lights of devotion and good example trimmed and aflame. Twice is the Deacon blessed in his Lord's word of the Gospel which you read to-day. "Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching." Such servants shall find another blessing. How wonderful the Lord's reception of the servants whom He finds persevering to the end and faithful unto death: "Verily I say unto you, that He shall gird Himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them"—i.e., will be a Deacon—unto them. The King of Kings will so humble Himself to reward His loyal Deacons. He will so humble Himself, even in His Kingdom of Eternal Glory. May you be found such Deacons—such servants, and inherit that double blessing. For, "if He shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants."