DECEMBER 13, 1885,
RECTOR OF ST. MARY'S CHURCH, BURLINGTON, N.J.
THE W.S. SHARP PRINTING COMPANY.
The new church edifice of St. Paul's, Syracuse, N. Y., was first opened for Divine Service on Sunday morning, December 13th, 1885. The building was brilliantly lighted, camp chairs were placed between the pews in the nave and aisles, and every available space was occupied--a large number standing up, even at the doors.
At 10:30 A. M. the Bishop and Clergy entered the chancel. Morning prayer was begun by the Rev. William Bliss Ashley, D. D., rector of St. Paul's from 1848 to 1855, the lessons being read by the Rev. George Heathcote Hills, deacon, and the collects and litany by the Rev. John Dews Hills.
The Rt. Reverend P. D. Huntington, D. D., Bishop of Central New York proceeded with the Eucharistic Office, assisted by the rector of the parish, the Rev. Henry R. Lockwood; who, after the Holy Gospel, read the following action of the Vestry:
Whereas, We believe it to be the desire of the Bishop, as it is accordant with our own sense of propriety, that there should he always at his disposal a suitable church edifice in which he may hold, at his discretion, such services as pertain to his Episcopal office; therefore,
Resolved, That we, the rector, wardens and vestrymen of St. Paul's Church, Syracuse, do hereby respectfully and cordially lender to the Bishop of the Diocese the use of St. Paul's Church for all services of an Episcopal or otherwise special character which he may desire to hold therein; and that he be asked to consider the propriety of allowing the church to be known as the Cathedral or the Bishop's Church.
Resolved, That it is our desire and intention, so soon and so far as it maybe practicable, to bring the worship and parochial work of the church into consonance with the Bishop's expressed views and wishes.
Resolved, That he be invited to occupy the pulpit of St. Paul's Church whenever it may he convenient to do so, and that pew No. 49 be hereby set apart for the use of his family on all occasions of public worship.
"I am authorized to say," continued the Rev. Mr. Lockwood, "that the Bishop gratefully accedes to the proposals contained in these resolutions, and will be prepared to take early measures to carry them into practical effect, invoking upon St. Paul's 'Cathedral' Church and its worship and work henceforth the blessing of Almighty God, the Father of all the families of the earth."
The Rev. George Morgan Hills, D. D., rector of St. Paul's from 1857 to 1870, then preached the following sermon.
SERMON. "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob"--PSALM LXXXVII.: 2.
There is a comparison in these words; and a comparison is used to set forth the estimate of the thing compared. That the Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than the dwellings of Jacob is an assurance that He loves the dwellings of Jacob much, sing "much" is the positive of "more." And the Psalmist, in these words, tells us of a love which we can well appreciate, in order to lead us up to that which it requires grace to comprehend. This becomes more striking when we consider what love God has shown to the dwellings of the righteous.
The ark, that house of Noah, was alone preserved and buoyed up by the very element which engulfed all other tenements. The houses of the Israelites were kept from harm when plagues of divers kinds were visited upon the habitations of the Egyptians. The house of Rahab, built upon the walls of Jericho, "perished not" when every other portion of those walls fell down. And, not to dwell upon many instances in modern times where fire and flood and tempest have left the dwellings of the just untouched, take one example. For two full centuries there was shown, amid the crowded rows of Chester, England, bearing upon its front, in capitals, "GOD'S PROVIDENCE HOUSE," because that alone escaped the plague--an uncommonly saintly occupant being the only assignable cause. Such events cannot be ascribed to chance nor come under the heading of "remarkable coincidences." The dwelling [5/6] of the righteous is a blessed place, whether it be of wood or stone, whether adorned with well-contrasted colors or weather-stained in brown. A blessed shelter is the fabric where the Christian lives who leads his household in the path to heaven. There is a daily sacrifice; prayers and praises; holy living and loving; devout and earnest effort to live the higher life; every chamber, a chapel; every hearthstone, an altar; good angels environ it with their defences, and the Holy Dove broods over it with unwearied wings. God loves the dwellings of the righteous much. Who can doubt it? But He tells us, in the text, that He loves the gates of Zion more. That the pen of inspiration says a thing, plainly, unmistakably, should be conclusive. And the simple utterance of the text and plainest exposition of it should satisfy us. But our religion is reasonable. In most respects its Author has provided that we comprehend His revelation.
From the beginning of the world, since Adam had "where to present himself before the Lord," God has prompted man to set apart places for His worship. He has given the earth to man, and then, by the operation of His Holy Spirit, prompted man to give Him back little patches of it, where we may more fittingly pay him "the honor due unto His Name." He commanded the erection of the tabernacle and the temple, and required His people to frequent them. He promised His Presence in them, and made that Presence felt--in the cloud, in the sacrificial fire, in the urim and thummim, and by an audible voice. That He had a peculiar affection for these places is evident in His directions for their construction and adornment; in the tabernacle, speaking not only of the ark, the mercy-seat, the cherubim, but of the color and material of the curtains, the kind of wood for the staves, and the number of the loops for the hangings. Moreover, in the temple that marvellous minuteness [6/7] of Solomon was regarded of God with manifest commendation. In both which fabrics we have emphatic testimony to God's exceeding love for them, since their smallest details were not too little for Him to think about, for Him to speak about, for Him to order and to approve. Yes, He loves them, as we say when speaking of an entire and absorbing love, He "loves every little thing about them."
Nor can any venture the assertion that with regard to such things God has changed. He is "the same yesterday, to-day and forever." He has never recalled this text; never told us that He once thought more of sacred places than He does now; never cautioned us in His gospel against excessive love for holy places, much less instructed us that private houses are as good as churches for divine homage. On the contrary, when the Word was made flesh, He was brought by His parents to the temple; frequented it from his earliest youth; taught there daily when His ministry began; pronounced them blind guides who said that swearing by the temple and its gold was nothing; declared that the altar sanctifies the gift; drove out the traffickers, rebuked the profaners, and suffered no man to carry any vessel through the temple--a degree of reverence which some in these days might think extreme.
Nor was the temple neglected by Christ's followers. It is recorded that His disciples were "continually in the temple;" that Peter and John went there "at the hour of prayer;" that Paul was found there with his alms and offerings. Because streets and staircases and upper rooms were used in exigencies is no warrant for the sophistry that attics and barns and the baldest possible structures are more consonant with Christianity. Four thousand years of preparation for the Christian Church left nothing to be said about buildings or adornments. The announcement that Christ "came not to destroy the law," but [7/8] "to fulfil it," was enough to show that in all senses "the glory of the latter house should be greater than the glory of the former." So that in the gospel dispensation the words of the text are emphasized, and the Lord still loves the gates of Zion more than other dwellings.
How He praised David because he determined to build Him a house! How He has "increased men" more and more, "them and their children," who have wrought like works! He loves the gates of Zion more than private dwellings, because they are reared for Him. We unite our wills and minds and purses, we buy the ground, we build the house, and when it is all paid for we ask God's high priest to come and take it. And when this act is done, there is a quit-claim deed given, and it is thenceforth God's. The priests of old set up the ark, and the Philistines said "God has come." The ark was the symbol of His presence; here is His Presence in fulfilment of His words, "I am with you always." Not as mere men do the ministers of the sanctuary engage in solemnities like this, but as bearers of that Presence assured on Olivet, and pledged till the latest generation.
God loves the gates of Zion more than private houses because He chiefly gives His blessings in them. Here, and in buildings such as this, is "the Name of the Lord" declared, His word is taught, His paths are shown, His law is published, the sufficiency of His cross proclaimed. Here, faith is kindled and hope is lighted, and penitence awakened, and obedience determined on. Here, and in buildings such as this, are men made sons of God and heirs of eternal life. Here is the cradle of the new birth, and when "the Lord writeth up His people," "of Zion," it is written, "of Zion it shall be reported that this man and that man"--that is, multitudes--"were born there." Here, too, takes place that spiritual sealing to the Lord in the act of Confirmation. And here is that "Table prepared against them that [8/9] trouble us." Here is unrolled, to all who have eyes to see, the grand panorama of redeeming love. Here, annually, are reviewed the terrors of Advent, the gladness of Christmas, the sorrows of Lent, the pains of Holy Week, the exultant joy of Easter, the rapt contemplation of Ascension-day, the blessed comfort of Whitsuntide, and the half-veiled mystery of the Trinity. Here are presented the twelve apostles, each in turn, who go to their crowns rejoicing as our emboldeners. Here majestic anthems and solemn litanies are offered "as incense and a pure offering," and
"While we walk on earth
We breathe celestial air."
And whatever claims nature or art may lay upon us, "Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary;" "Out of Zion dost Thou appear in the perfection of beauty." "Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary."
If God loves the gates of Zion more than other places, He must prefer our worship here. This deduction is unanswerable. In vain is the notion that we can worship quite as well at home, under an arbor, on the heights of a mountain, beside the sounding sea. It is Deism which says this. The law and the prophets, Christ and His apostles, the Jewish and the Christian Churches, all receivers of Divine Revelation, repudiate such sentiments. And they are most irrational. Shall God require, and we obey him in erecting, temples; shall He cause to be celebrated in them His highest, most intellectual and spiritualizing services; shall he offer us, here, gifts and graces which angels desire to look into, and we be cajoled by the whimseys of so-called Naturalism? All places indicate the business of the place. The appointments of a church excite devotion. The altar, the font, the lectern, the prayer-desk, the pulpit, preach to the eye before there is a sound. And so real, so great, so [9/10] transcendently true is the declaration that "the House of God is the gate of Heaven," that could our eyesight be spiritualized, over every consecrated roof, at every holy service, we should see the avenue to God filled with angelic ministrants, bearing "the prayers of the saints" as "vials full of odors," "a sacrifice of sweet smell, well pleasing unto the Lord."
If God loves churches more than private houses, ought not we? Is not He our pattern? Can we approach this standard unless we love our consecrated places better than our dwellings? Alas! in how few places is such love shown! How few are the communities in America where the church building is the most costly, the most durable, the best cared for, of any fabric! Are not the appointments of our homes subjects of greater attention than those of our churches? Are not the generality of well-to-do Christians content to adorn the walls of their chambers and leave their churches bare; to decorate their own apartments and let the courts of the Lord remain without ornamentation? Ah! the Lord is "jealous for Zion with great jealousy;" and if we loved our churches as He loves them, we should say, "I will lay thy stones with fair colours and thy foundations with sapphires; and I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones;" yea, every man and woman among us, "willingly with his heart," would bring offerings of "gold and silver and brass, and blue and purple and scarlet and fine linen, according to all that God hath showed us after the pattern of the tabernacle."
A few drops of rain, a slight flurry of snow, a transient indisposition, an unexpected letter, the Sunday newspaper, would not keep us from the house of the Lord. With such love for our churches as God has, it would be the habit of our lives to meet Him here, not only for the exercises of common prayer, but for events in our individual history. Baptisms, bridals, burials, [10/11] special intercessions, thanksgivings for particular blessings, alms, sin-offerings and thank-offerings, would find their places here. Only those who reach such heights can say, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, even that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the fair beauty of the Lord and to visit his temple."
And how shall those who do not accept this standard be fitted for that life which is pictured to us as unending worship? "I saw no temple," says the rapt apostle, no particular place for Divine homage, for it is all temple, all one vast, unpillared sanctuary, measureless, boundless, one with the walls and arches of heaven itself! And with what magnificence is that temple painted! Gates of solid pearl! Walls of precious stones! Jaspers, clear as crystal! Sapphires, chalcedonies, topaz! Golden altars, and choirs robed in white and crowned with gold, and angels with rainbow colors round their heads! Oh, my brethren, how such glimpses of the Zion above entrance us with their splendor! How stupendous the courts, to embrace the multitudes of the glorified together with the ninety and nine orders of the celestial ministry! How the mere mention of these facts ravishes the soul! How those sights in heaven, shown us by St. John, confirm all that goes before in the Word of God, and repeat, like the outburst of a chorus, "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion!"
When we come to church to worship, then, we come quite near to heaven. Our "holy places made with hands are figures of the true;" figures in outline, indeed, but more consonant than any other which art or nature can produce; because designed and taught us by the Architect of both. And it is written once for all, and the truth remains, "In all places where I record my Name I will come unto thee and I will bless thee." Substitute for the word "Zion" the words "the Church" in the [11/12] law and in the prophets and in the psalms, and you will be surprised at the exegesis, and find new significance in that benediction, "The Lord that made heaven and earth give thee blessing out of Zion."
With such views and such convictions we open this house to-day for holy offices. The solemnities have not the sublime function of a "consecration," which we pray God to hasten in His time; but the tenderer and comparatively private character, where the families of one tribe come together to give thanks unto the Name of the Lord for some great and special blessing common to them all. We have assembled, some from long distances, former parishioners and present parishioners, former pastors and present pastor, bishop, clergy and laity, to "dedicate this house of God with joy." And if those outside this life are cognizant of things on earth, have we not with us a company unseen? I speak not of the blessed angels, but of those once mortal like ourselves, of like passions as we are, those whom we have seen and known and those of whom we have heard with our ears and our fathers have told us. Is not every one who with a faithful and true heart has given much or little to this parochial Zion an interested spectator of this scene? Have we not with us John McCarty, the deacon from Onondaga Hill, who, in 1826, in the district school-house on Church street, presided at the organization of this parish? Have we not with us William Barlow, the first resident missionary, who in two years' time saw the earliest church fabric completed and consecrated? Have we not Palmer Dyer, who, after the little flock of eight communicants had been for eighteen months without a shepherd, strengthened the things that remained, and during four years had "the good report of all men and of the truth itself". And John B. Gallagher, whose failing health alone caused frequent intermissions of his telling services? And [12/13] Henry Gregory, that man of God who seemed like one of the old prophets risen again; and who, after five and twenty years of toil, "fell on sleep," leaving for monuments two temples of stone and two well-instructed congregations, and the imperishable title, "Father of the Church in Syracuse?" And Simon Greenleaf Fuller, that splendid young man, your rector only two and twenty months, and then removed so instantly that his departure was like translation rather than death? And if these are with us, are not the lion-hearted Hobart, who consecrated the first church fabric, [September 19th, 1827] and the wise-minded De Lancey, who consecrated the second? [July 5th, 1842]
And when we look nearer to this cloud of witnesses, can we not recognize among them William A. Cook, and Amos P. Granger, and Horace White, and Hamilton White, and Harvey Loomis, and John James Peck, and Edward B. Wicks, and David Duncan Hillis, and Charles D. Easton, and Lewis H. Redfield, and Samuel C. Brewster, and William Jackson, and A. C. Powell, and Joseph F. Sabine, and Marsena Ballard, and Richard Raynor, and Jacob Raynor, and Joseph I. Bradley, and William H. Shankland, and Jacob S. Smith, and Thomas E. Townsend, and William Tefft, and Richard Savage, and John Hillhouse, and John L. Swift, all communicants, all in their day regular in public worship--a constituency which would make any parish strong? And last, but not least, John Griffith, "Uncle John," as he was universally styled, for over forty years the faithful "doorkeeper in the house of the Lord," whose demise in the church porch made remarkable his words that all he asked for in heaven was the part he had on earth, to stand at the portal and look in.
By a concurrence no doubt undesigned, to-day is the feast of St. Lucy, the patron of ancient Syracuse, after which this city is [13/14] named. This concurrence is to me beautiful and suggestive. It reminds me that in the first dwelling ever erected in this locality there were six communicants of the Church, and all of them were women. It reminds me that the first religions rite performed in this place was the marriage of one of these. It reminds me, too, that the wife of the proprietor of the first Syracuse house, likewise a communicant, when in the winter of 1821-2 the Rev. Lucius Smith of Auburn came out here to officiate, turned her parlor temporarily into an oratory for the first public worship. It reminds me further how always, here and everywhere, holy women have "labored much in the Lord." Their names are in the book of life. They shall shine as the stars forever and ever.
Brethren, since the two former rectors present first ministered among you, a generation has gone, a generation has come. The men and women who are the hope of this parish are the children whom we catechised, the infants whom we christened. Two, born in your first rectory, now a priest and a deacon, have come back to the home of their nativity to be with their elders in this hour of gladness. Can you conceive the emotions of the heart that can say, "Behold I and the children which God hath given me?" [The Rev. John Dows Hills, rector of St. Andrews' Church, Mount Holly, N. J., and the Rev. George Heathcote Hills, assistant to the rector of St. Mary's, Burlington, N. J.]
Rt. Reverend Father in God, Chief Pastor of this jurisdiction, I congratulate you on this event in the mother parish of this city; and the announcement just made from the chancel that you accept this church as your Cathedral is the drop which makes our cup of joy overflow. For forty years its rectors will bear witness that this is a congregation of great resources and vast capabilities. None is more so in Central New York, and few are more so except in the great cities. May it be yours, [14/15] Rt. Reverend Father, always to be able to say that this "hill of Zion is a fair place" and the joy of the whole diocese. May its gifts so continue to flow that it continue to merit the distinction which Bishop De Lancey gave it, when, with a set of alms-basons brought from England, he added, "in testimony of St. Paul's parish being among the most liberal supporters of Diocesan Missions and other Church objects."
My beloved brother, rector of this large and influential parish, for myself and all here present and many afar off, I congratulate you on the completion of this noble work. The three priests next preceding you desired such a consummation, and cried, "O Lord, how long!" Two of them are permitted to take you by the hands this day and "rejoice with exceeding great joy."
Laity of this congregation of St. Paul's, beloved by every tie, you are to be congratulated beyond all. You have reared these walls as those who know "That in this place is One greater than the temple." Keep as solidly in your hearts as are the foundation-stones which uphold its superstructure, that IT belongs and that you belong to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, the historic Church which has transmitted to us English literature and English laws not only, but the English Bible and the English liturgy. BELIEVE in this Church, pray for it, work for it, give to it. Never compromise it--would you compromise your mother? So shall "the Lord build up Zion, and His glory shall appear." For "the Lord thy God, O Zion, shall be King for evermore, and throughout all generations."