ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 1, 1867, BEING THE
FEAST OF SS. PHILIP AND JAMES,
BISHOP OF MONTANA.
THESE are the words of an inspired Apostle addressed to an Apostle: the instruction of a father to his son in the gospel; words which fittingly express the wise affection of such a relationship. What more could Timothy do; what more could Paul ask him to do? To "make full proof of his ministry," as an ambassador of Christ, clothed with the commission of the highest order of that divine office, is to complete the utmost that can be promised or accomplished below the skies. But these words have lost none of the celestial fire of their freshness by the lapse of eighteen hundred years. Inspiration never grows old. It immortalizes whatever it touches, and makes its precepts forever new. Its articulate breathings are the law of the life of God to-day, as they were in the beginning. What the Holy Ghost, speaking by an Apostle, enjoined upon Titus, marks and measures the duty of all who are called to a like ministry. We have come up to the house of God to confer the apostleship [3/4] of the Son of God upon a brother beloved. The injunction of the great Apostle of the Gentiles, addressed to a young soldier of the cross, to whose episcopal charge had been committed the care of all the churches in Ephesus, is surely a subject appropriate to these solemnities: "Make full proof of thy ministry." While in this injunction the truth expressed is patent, that which is implied is not less important. Both demand our devout attention. May the Holy Ghost, who spake by the mouth of the Apostle these words of admonition, help us rightly to unfold and apply them for our instruction in that truth which God has revealed for His own glory in the gracious salvation of a lost world. It is plain enough, in the first place, that if Timothy was required to make "full proof of his ministry," there must be such a thing as a ministry, since neither inspired nor uninspired men' could fulfill what did not exist. There is, then, such an institution as the, Christian ministry; a ministry of Christ, by man and for man, as a part of that plan of salvation which the Son of God set forth and established; a ministry made essential to that plan by Him who is the Author and finisher of it. God saves His own world in His own way. It is not strange that it is so; nor is it strange that infinite wisdom should sometimes differ from finite wisdom as to the best mode of carrying out the divine plans of grace in regenerating, renewing, and saving the human family. A MINISTRY in the kingdom of [4/5] Christ becomes, by virtue of its origin, both a positive and a divine thing; divine, because it proceeds from the Head of the Church, who is God Himself; positive, because complete and objective, by means of a commission coming from the source of all power in heaven and earth; an entity as well as theory, an office held by men, called to it by God the Holy Ghost, and commissioned by God the Redeemer of the world. This commission and these duties, held and done by an order of living men, who are not born priests, as were the sons of Aaron, but made such by an ordinance of Heaven, who are known, or may be known, by virtue of their call and their credentials, thus form an objective part of Christ's kingdom, which has been placed amongst the kingdoms of this world for their conversion and salvation. The MINISTRY, then, as an institution, becomes a plain and positive element of the gospel, without which that gospel, in the work whereunto it is sent, cannot be complete. The ministry and the Word were not made to dwell apart, and what God has joined together for His own glory, in the salvation of sinners, no counsels of men may put asunder. Neither the ministry without the Word, nor the Word without the ministry, can alone accomplish that end, which has been divinely ordained as the result of the conjoined work of both. The ministry were commissioned before the gospel was completed. Much of the New Testament was written with pens guided by the Holy Ghost in the [5/6] hands of the very men who had been before ordained to preach this gospel, with authority to transmit to others the same apostolic commission. To them were these divine oracles committed as a sacred trust; by them was this Word to be preached; and by them was it to be preserved, that it be neither destroyed by the malice of enemies nor corrupted by the frailty of friends. The Word and the ministry have come down through all ages, hand in hand together, mutual witnesses of their common origin and divine authority. He who challenges the fact of an apostolic ministry or its unbroken succession, must answer the same challenge in relation to the fact of God's Word, and its integrity as transmitted from the hands of evangelists and apostles. It is the declared mind of the Most High, that "believers shall be saved by the foolish ness of preaching." But the gospel can only be preached by preachers, and "how can they preach except they be sent? "There might have been other modes of evangelizing the world, but it is enough for us to know that God has chosen this only, and ordained it, as His way of doing His work; and if this be so, then any attempt to convert the world in any other manner, will only serve to distract His kingdom, hinder its progress, and end in failure.
Besides the ministry and the Word as essential parts of a divine plan, there are the SACRAMENTS, which Christ has appointed, as means to an end, in [6/7] connection with His mystical body. The ordination of the ministry preceded the institution of the sacraments. To the hands of that ministry were the ordinances committed, and by them were they to be administered, preserved, and transmitted. By virtue of which administration, preservation, and transmission we have them, after more than eighteen hundred years, this day, in their integrity. The same witnesses whose line of testimony proves that Christ established two sacraments in His kingdom, no more and no less, and informs us what these sacraments are, and who are to administer them, and for what purpose, demonstrate the fact of a ministry of three orders, and the purposes for which such a ministry was ordained.
For infinitely wise reasons, God has been pleased to manifest Himself, in the work of the world's redemption and salvation, in a triune personality. He has been pleased, also, to reveal His will, in connection with a triple instrumentality, in the Ministry, Word, and Sacraments of His Church. Moreover that ministry, like the ministry which preceded it in the Mosaic dispensation, was to be threefold in its orders. Now, why a trinity of persons in the Godhead, and a trinity of means in the mystical body, should thus belong to and pervade be evangelical system of saving the world, is a question which human wisdom cannot answer. But that this is a fact, no man who is intelligent enough to read the Bible, and has faith enough to believe it, [7/8] will venture to deny. The Inspired Word, the Two Sacraments, and the Threefold Ministry, have come down to us from their divine source, uncorrupted by the channels through which they have been transmitted. This is the divine plan, as that plan is delineated in the Bible. It is the revelation of the mind of God to the mind of man, in the matter of the means of the world's salvation. It is His mode of doing His work. If so, then any other mode will not answer this end. It must be evident that the Word without the ministry, or the ministry and the Word without the sacraments, will not accomplish the divine purpose in man's salvation. So, also, it follows that any defect in any one or all of these impairs the efficacy of this divine instrumentality, and hinders the success of this spiritual system. Hence the pertinency and importance of the exhortation of St. Paul addressed to Timothy: "Make full proof of thy ministry." The office of an apostolic ministry is to preach the gospel, defend the faith, administer the ordinances, and maintain discipline, and so set forward the kingdom of Christ, by honoring God in the faithful use of the means which He has ordained to this end. Just in proportion as an Apostle does this, just in that measure precisely will he "make full proof of his ministry." It is not enough to demonstrate that we are the lawful ambassadors of God incarnate, since we may have the name, enjoy the title, and possess the power, and yet, by all these, only prove [8/9] the bare validity of our commission, while we utterly fail to "make full proof of our ministry," and so are really hinderers rather than promoters of the coming of Christ's kingdom. There is a wide difference between simply proving and making "full proof of our ministry." This last is alone the measure of our duty. Lower than this we may not aim; less than this we may not do, with any hope of receiving the full measure of the divine blessing upon our labors, and of seeing the Church prosper to the utmost of primitive success. To make "full proof of our ministry," is to carry out completely its principles, and discharge entirely its duties. Of these is first: The preaching of the gospel. When Christ gave the great commission to His Apostles, with the charge, which should never cease so long as that commission continues, "to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," He showed in this His first command what was evermore to be their primary duty. For this were they sent, and hence their name. The term missionary Apostle would be a palpable misnomer, and hardly less absurd is the term missionary Bishop, if, as we hold, a bishop is a successor of the Apostles.
The injunction to Timothy, in the text, is linked with the command, "Do the work of an evangelist." The Apostle, who does not "do the work of an evangelist," does not "make full proof of his ministry." So deep were the convictions of St. [9/10] Paul on this point, that he uses this very strong and very extraordinary language: "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel." (1 Cor. i. 17.) A bishop is to "make full proof of his ministry by doing "the work of an evangelist," in preaching the gospel, as well where it has not as where it has been already proclaimed. When, from the multiplicity of executive or functional duties, he has not the time nor strength to do this, or from wrong views of the nature and dignity of his office he neglects to do this, he falls just so far below the apostolic standard. Hence, a bishop should be the first missionary in his diocese, so far at least as taking the lead in all the work of an evangelist within his canonical jurisdiction: leading on the army of the Lord into the very heart of the dominions of darkness, and saying to his clergy "COME," rather than "GO." When this is not done, for want of zeal, then he should be quickened; when for want of strength, then he should be assisted; when because of the extent of his diocese, then it should be reduced, until it is brought within the compass of his physical ability. But he only "makes full proof of his ministry" who preaches the gospel, just as the Holy Ghost has written it. "The work of an evangelist" is to preach "Christ crucified," with all the precious doctrines that cluster about the cross, exactly in the relation and proportion in which God Himself has placed them. To change their relative places, or to magnify or diminish their positive or [10/11] relative importance, is to preach another gospel. There is a constant tendency to do this thing growing out of the infirmities of human nature. Ministers sometimes have their favorite dogmas, and they almost insensibly fall into the error of magnifying one doctrine at the expense of another, and so preach a one-sided gospel, true indeed in its parts, but shorn of the symmetry of its divine proportions.
Again, at times, certain errors of doctrine become rife and threaten mischief, and their unscriptural extravagances provoke indiscreet and unwarrantable methods for their remedy. Thus in an age of rationalistic tendencies, the sacraments are neglected, and a popular habit of irreverence fosters contempt for spiritualities in religion. To correct such deplorable errors, there is a temptation to unduly magnify the ordinances and offices with which God has never clothed them, exalting them to a degree of sanctity and importance which are no part of the gospel as recorded in the New Testament. On the other hand, there are certain religionists, who, without the provocations of infidelity, but purely by the promptings of their esthetic proclivities, claim for the sacraments what the Word of God does not warrant; begetting an evil clad in superstition and verging upon idolatry. To counteract such an error some are disposed to run to the opposite extreme, and to disparage the ordinances of the Church as means of grace, and, so far as they [11/12] can, to ignore the fact of their spiritual profit, by avoiding, as much as may be, all reference to them, in order to discountenance to the utmost a grave error of doctrine in the opposite direction. He who pursues such a course, signally fails to "make full proof of his ministry," shows a pitiable cowardice in not daring to use God's means in God's way, and by his unwarranted course contributes to the very evil which he strives in vain to remedy.
It is so in the matter of certain doctrines, which, while they are true and scriptural, are nevertheless made false, by the relative position in which they are placed and persistently held on the part of those who have become alarmed by an opposite evil, hoping by such an exclusive and magnifying process to correct a dangerous error.
If the minister would do what will most avail to reduce error and promote truth in the Church, or out of it, let him have faith to make just as much and just as little as Christ has made of the doctrines of, His gospel and the ordinances of His kingdom. To make more of them, or to make less of them, is to fail in fidelity to a divine trust. The gospel record is the apostolic standard, in these as in all things, for him who seeks to "make full proof of his ministry." But a chief minister is not only to comply with the injunction of St. Paul, in holding and preaching and practising sound doctrine, but also, in the exercise of his apostolic authority, to defend and conserve the faith once delivered to the [12/13] saints. He is to do this, not only by holding it and preaching it himself, but by requiring others, over whom he may be placed in the Lord, so to teach that evangelical truth be not corrupted, that apostolic ordinances be not perverted, and the salvation of the people thereby endangered, and God dishonored. Before the Church permits him to be admitted to the office of an Apostle, she requires him to solemnly swear that he will "banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine." There is a constant tendency, in the human mind, to the sinful side of all life, not only physical and mental, but moral and spiritual. The precise form of its manifestation religious-ward depends upon the current .of circumstances,--the spirit of the age. Sometimes it is toward infidelity, and then toward fanaticism. Again, as at this time, irreverence and rationalism are seen running parallel with superstition and idolatry. These surging tides would break down the walls of Zion and drown the saints in perdition. Now he who holds an Apostle's commission must, in such times, "make full proof of his ministry," by valiantly maintaining the truth as God has revealed it, as the Church has received it, and as he, her servant and Christ's minister, has promised to preserve it. It will cost an effort, it will demand firmness, it will call for courage, it will tax his patience and his prudence to their utmost. He must plant himself on the high places of Christ's kingdom, and turn back the torrent, whether it [13/14] be rushing toward Rationalism or Romanism, the idolatry of the, mind or the idolatry of "the mass." In primitive times men had itching ears and wistful eyes. Cultivated Gentiles were enamored of the excitement of hearing and telling some new thing in the crowded marts of Athens; while converted Israelites, not wholly emancipated from their traditional love of the Mosaic ceremonial, were eager to engraft the ordinances of a departed dispensation, which Jesus had nailed to His cross, upon the spiritual, mystical, beautiful body of Christ; newly risen from the dead dominion of the law. In making full proof of his ministry, St. Paul was compelled to confront both these classes of errorists, and condemn while he exposed the wicked folly of their conceits. While he shattered the refined idolatry of scholarly Athenians, he withstood his brother Peter to his face, and sternly rebuked the compromising Apostle for cowardly dissembling in regard to Jewish rites. The witchery of novelty has lost none of the charms of its bewildering and binding spell upon minds given to eccentric notions. Human nature is essentially the same in all generations. The tide which indicates its unstable waywardness is ever ebbing and flowing,--surging in curious and countercurrents, and landing the mortals who embark upon it on the quicksands of opposite extremes.
The principles of the gospel are, like its Author, eternally unchangeable. Hence the Christian bishop of this day, interpreting St. Paul's words by [14/15] St. Paul's acts, will find that he can only make full proof of his ministry by withstanding to the face him on the one side, who in his. conceited pride seeks to deify his reason, and enshrining his god in his brain, turns his skull into a temple; and him on the other side, who in his superstitious folly thinks to adorn Christ's spiritual temple with the statuary of mediaeval mummies.
There always have been sects in God's Church, and there may never be a full end of them until the end of the world. They were found in the Jewish Church, as they have abounded in the Christian Church, from the first age until now. Men have wanted more and they have wanted less than God has provided or the Church has ordered, and' so private judgment has run riot in the work of rivaling the divine provisions. Such sects were noisy in the time and in the very presence of the Christ Himself, and the impertinent pride of their conceited self-will drew upon them His withering anathemas; and surely it is no marvel if the same kind abide to plague His Apostles in every age. There was one class who could not refrain from expressing their complacent conviction that the Lord, for some unknown reason, had entrusted them with a sort of monopoly of the piety in His Church, and so they felt warranted in taunting their less favored brethren with a lack of true godliness, thanking Heaven "they were not as other men are," arrogating the attributes of the Infinite, in presuming to know and [15/16] to judge the hearts of their fellow-men. Then, again, there were those who affected a marvelous degree of ceremonial sanctity, that could not find its appropriate expression within the limits of Jewish canons or Mosaic usage. They must wear their phylacteries a good deal wider than their brethren; wider than the law allowed; wider than the Church practised. They felt constrained to say their prayers in a posture and at places which served to distinguish them from their brethren, and by the novelty of the mode attract the popular attention. All this looked religious, very religious indeed. With many it passed for great godliness; a very devout type of high spirituality. But the omniscient eye of Christ read this hollow-hearted formality through and through, and abhorring the pretentious service of such, He remanded their fanatical hypocrisy to the abode of "whited sepulchres," and locked it up in communion with "dead men's bones and all uncleanness." Thus fared, at the Saviour's hands, the two forms of the Pharisaism of His day, fit types of the Pharisaism of every age. The overweening self-righteousness of one class, and the affected devoutness of another, that seeks expression in singular and questionable if not unlawful forms, are but developments of human nature, which have been common in every period of the Church, and however they may at times prevail to wound the cause of Jesus, and hurt the consciences of the faithful, they are no indications that [16/17] the Saviour has forsaken His flock, but rather a sign that an apostolic Church in the nineteenth century shares the same troubles which beset Christ's kingdom before He left the world. Such a condition of things gives a providential emphasis to the admonition addressed by the Holy Ghost to every successor of the Apostles: "Make full proof of thy ministry." This is to be done, not alone in preaching, conserving, and defending the true faith, as to doctrine and sacraments, and the manner of Christian ministrations, so that error be neither countenanced nor taught, but also in the matter of the ministry itself, as an essential part of that instrumentality, which God has ordained for reclaiming a lost world from the dominion of death.
The authority to call and ordain and send ministers was committed by the Son of God to the Apostles. This extraordinary power, lodged with them, was by them to be transmitted to others their successors. In fulfilling their ministry, these successors are diligently to guard the door of entrance, that only such as are rightly qualified be admitted to this great distinction and responsibility. But more than this must be done. Care must be taken that the ministry itself be preserved in its number, order, and integrity, as Christ has ordained;-that in its practical operation it be adjusted in its relative duties, as it was in the beginning, since the relative office of these orders is as much a part of the divine plan as the orders themselves, and there [17/18] is no more room here than in any other part of the gospel for that "development," which carries us beyond apostolic practice. When, therefore, from any cause this inspired arrangement is essentially modified in practice, then this divine plan is so far interfered with, and consequently its efficiency, will be impaired, and the progress of Christ's kingdom will be hindered. It is not enough that we preserve intact the number of our orders by having bishops, priests, and deacons. Each must hold his commission with its particular office and specific duties, to be faithfully done as the contribution of each order, to the completion of the great work of converting the world. We can never with one order, nor with two, however earnestly employed, make full proof of three orders. If one order of ministers had been sufficient for completely carrying out the will of God in the work of saving the world, then surely one order alone would have been established for this purpose, since such is the economy of the divine counsel, that there can be no such thing as a superfluity in God's kingdom on earth or in heaven. If a theoretical Presbyterianism is not wise, because divine, then a virtual or practical Presbyterianism cannot be profitable. The tendency in our times is to undertake to accomplish with essentially one order what the head of the Church has appointed to be done by three orders. When the human assumes to improve upon the divine, it requires no great sagacity to see what will be the result. When [18/19] Episcopacy is retained in the Church, only because it cannot be dispensed with, and is employed chiefly in ordaining and confirming, while the pastoral office and "the work of an Evangelist" is scarcely recognized as any part of Episcopal duties, and when the diaconate is no longer practically an order in the Church, having dwindled into a mere steppingstone to the priesthood; and when upon presbyters devolves the proper work of their own order, together with the ministrations of the diaconate and the missionary office of the episcopate, then Churchmen are making an experiment, whose ultimate results will surely show that God's way of doing His own work in His own Church cannot possibly be improved by any ecclesiastical wit of man. The Church must make full proof of her ministry by fulfilling every distinct order of it, according to the pattern shown to her by Apostles inspired by the Holy Ghost, as a divine, complete, and unchangeable instrumentality, organized and adjusted by God Himself. Never will this be done until the episcopate and the diaconate conform in their practical working to the primitive mode; and this will not be as long as the principal occupation of bishops is to "lay on hands," and the chief pursuit of deacons is to find the priesthood, and "the work of evangelists" is done almost exclusively by presbyters.
The Protestant Episcopal Church will fail to demonstrate to the world her great missionary [19/20] capabilities, until she has "made full proof of her ministry," as that ministry has been set in the Church by her divine Head. We may mourn over our slow progress, and search out remedies for prevailing evils, but we shall look in vain for glorious triumphs, until an apostolic church is ready to do the Church's work in an apostolic way. I know that in periods when defects are apparent, panaceas are popular, and specifics become fashionable. Just now small dioceses is the remedy prescribed for the general cure of ecclesiastical complaints. However efficacious this remedy may be, it has its limit, and when carried beyond that limit, will produce an evil quite as bad as that which it seeks to cure. A diocese should betas large as its bishop, or as its bishop ought to be.. It should never be smaller than his utmost capabilities. It may be said that good care must be taken not to overwork the episcopate. That is very true, and it is equally true, when applied to other ministers. But it is not to be supposed that a presbyter accepts the office of a bishop in the Church of God, for the purpose of prolonging the days of a dignified life by changing his orders and lightening his labors. Dioceses are not made for bishops, but bishops for dioceses, and their office is not designed to be a sinecure. Without further argument or remark, I think it must be evident to all who understand the gospel, and-believe it to be the divine mode of saving the world, that it can only be entirely successful in accomplishing [20/21] this work, by adhering strictly to its provisions, thereby making the right use of the right means, and conversely, when these provisions are departed from either in their principle or in their use, then sooner or later error and mischief, and failure and disaster in some form or other, will ensue, to the sad detriment of the progress of Christ's kingdom on earth. The history of the Church abundantly illustrates this point. At different periods, certain parts of the Christian Church have made the experiment of attempting to improve upon the divine provisions, by adding to or taking from them. The Romish Church were not content with three orders, and their relative authority as Christ ordained. They disturbed it, and changed it, and the fruit which came of this attempt to improve the divine plan is the curse of popery, with its endless train of evils. Christ ordained two Sacraments. The Romish Church believed seven to be better than two, and seven they have, but with this change came the abomination of gross idolatry. They attempted to improve what Christ had perfected, and they fell into the sin of paganism. Again, God wrote His Word as a complete revelation of His will, perfect and entire, wanting nothing; and sealing up the canon of it, pronounced an anathema upon any who should add to or take from it. The Romish Church, thinking to enlarge her power by enlarging the Bible, exalted her own tradition into a coordinate authority, thereby detracting from the supremacy of Holy Scripture; and from [21/22] such incubation she has hatched the dogma of her own infallibility, from which has sprung an innumerable brood of heresies to dishonor the Church and distract the world. Christ made Himself the Head of His own Church in heaven and on earth. They began by putting Peter in His place in the Church Militant, and this is developed into the exaltation of a woman into Christ's place in the Church Triumphant, thereby making a mortal the "Queen of Heaven." Nor is there yet an end. One false doctrine only makes another necessary, and so the process of "development" furnishes the required heresy to make consistently complete what has gone before.
Now let us turn to other bodies of Christians, who have attempted the same thing, only in a different form.
At the time of the Reformation some concluded that because Episcopacy existed in connection with the papacy, therefore it had better be dispensed with, for the honor of God, the good of the Church, and the welfare of the world. They did not consider that the Bible and the Sacraments were in the same category, and so if the order of the ministry could be changed or annihilated, because corrupted by popery, so might the Word and the Sacraments. They made the experiment of reducing the three orders to one, on the same authority that the Papists had increased the two Sacraments to seven, and had supplanted the supreme authority of Holy Scripture, [22/23] by making their vain tradition a coordinate authority, by the exercise of their own private judgment of the fitness of things in these relations. On the contrary, in England, the work of the Reformation was conducted on the principle of casting off what was corrupt because it was corrupt, and retaining what was pure and apostolic because it was pure and scriptural, whatever might have been its relations to the Church of Rome. In England the Church unfortunately was hampered by alliance with the State, and was compelled to suffer all the inconveniences and hindrances which grew out of such a wedlock, where the welfare of Christ's spiritual kingdom was made subordinate to the interests of the political managers of the State. The Church had no controlling voice either in the order of her worship, or in the election of her chief ministers. The Reformation on the Continent had no such burden to bear; no such obstacles to overcome in the prosecution of its great work. And yet what has been the result? The continental reformers cast off the Episcopacy, changed the order of the ministry as the Head of the Church had ordained it, and at the end of three hundred years, what is the Church in Germany? Alas, the home of the heresy, which denies the divinity of the Son of God, where rationalism effectually displaces revelation, the fountain head of neology, whose streams wither every green thing in God's heritage. All the advantages of a Church without the State, all the [23/24] influences of profound learning, are perverted to giving the sanction of a quasi religion to that popular infidelity which is the scourge of Christendom.
Where, at the end of three hundred years, is the Church of England, yet struggling with the millstone of the State around her neck? There she stands before. the world yet holding the Word, as inspired men wrote it, and the Sacraments and ministry as Christ ordained them; loyal to her Divine Head, and however plagued by temporal rulers, yet holding fast her integrity, maintaining the gospel in its purity, the bulwark of Protestant Christendom. Again. The Puritans of England were not content merely to seek for a higher form of spiritual life than that obtained in the Established Church. They must renounce Episcopacy, as a necessary means to greater piety. When they left their mother, they had her faith in its purity. Finding a new home in the New World, where the State was their own, with nobody to interfere with their religious plans and aspirations, they had nothing to do but to be perfect. They supposed that they could dispense with a part of that which Christ had provided, and with less of a ministry could make greater progress in the divine life. At the end of less than two centuries and a half, where are the Puritans and their institutions? The very church planted on Plymouth Rock has long ago denied the divinity of Jesus. Look at the school which they founded almost as soon as they landed; [24/25] which they watered with their tears, and spared no, toil to build up, as a tower of strength for the defense of the faith of the gospel; now the hot-bed of heresy, whose pestilential breath is withering every vital energy of pure religion which it can reach. This is what becomes of a true faith when men undertake to keep it and spread it in ways that are their own invention, in place of those which divine wisdom has provided. Again, take the sect of the Quakers, a body of Christians who set out with the honest purpose of attaining an extraordinary degree of spirituality of life. They were not to be hindered by an apostolic ministry, nor helped by ordinances, which they vainly supposed Christ nailed to His cross. These people, in the purity and simplicity of their lives, in the fruits of peace and righteousness which they brought forth, in the many Christian virtues which adorned their society, commanded the profound respect of the world for their consistency, with every earthly reason in favor of the success of a religion which had so much in it of practical holiness. But they had undertaken to put asunder what God hath joined together. They had not multiplied, but they had annihilated the Sacraments. And now in less than two centuries they are fading away from the face of the earth, and in a few years there will not be a solitary congregation of this sect left to carry on the experiment of attempting to maintain the divine life independently of the divinely ordained sources of its support. These are [25/26] significant and instructive facts. They are the handwriting of Heaven, so plain that he who runs may read. They are God's providence vindicating God's grace. They warn us to beware lest we fail in any respect to "make full proof of our ministry."
But there is another form in which the error of attempting to change the mode of extending God's kingdom manifests itself for our admonitory instruction. On the part of one class of religionists there has been an undue exaltation of preaching, while public worship and the Sacraments as means of grace have been regarded as matters of comparatively minor importance. The error was not in regarding preaching as a power for the conversion of the world, but in disturbing the adjustment which Christ had made, of its relations to other means of salvation as parts of a perfect plan. When reliance was thus placed on one part unduly magnified, and so in a measure separated from other parts, what was the consequence? There was a gradual transition, from long, labored doctrinal sermons, which were filled with theological teachings, to lighter, shorter, and more stimulating productions. The times change, and there must be a change in the style of preaching. The public taste varies, and the preaching must keep pace with it. Sermons must be accommodated to the popular wish. Entertainment is demanded in order to the requisite freshness; there must be a startling style. Novelty in language or in sentiment, eccentric veins of thought, or unlicensed modes of [26/27] expression must continually be resorted to, in order to maintain an unflagging interest. The preacher must keep up with a progressive age. The people crave stimulants. What is inspiring to-day is insipid to-morrow. The ear can bear something stronger, and the ear must have it. Thus the pulpit becomes the arena where all sorts of subjects are discussed. The times and not the scriptures furnish the themes of discourse. The incidents of the day, the politics of the country, moral reforms, modes of education, political economy, topics of science, and such like are seized upon in the vain hope of satisfying a morbid appetite which increases by that on which it feeds. I need not undertake to describe the sad mischief which has befallen the cause of Christ, in consequence of this attempt to furnish the means of gratifying the passion to hear some new thing," by men who profess to be preachers of the gospel. There is to-day, as the fruit of this perversion of the power of the pulpit, a fearful degree of ignorance of the first principles of the gospel on the part of multitudes who are otherwise highly intelligent; an insidious spirit of skepticism pervading all classes of society; an unsettled faith on the part of believers; disgust of serious-minded men; and downright infidelity among not a few. This is-the harvest which comes of seed which men find it convenient to sow when they prefer to tickle the ear with highly spiced novelties rather than to strike home to the heart the sturdy blows of evangelical [27/28] truth. Another class of religionists seize upon the faculty of seeing the great power of religion, as if faith came to the soul through the eye. With these hearing is a small matter; preaching is of secondary importance. With such the ceremonial in worship is the all in all of religion. Sight-seeing is a natural proclivity of the human mind. It is early and strongly developed in childhood, and rarely is a man found who grows rapidly enough to outgrow it before he reaches his second childhood. Hence pictorial preachers are always popular, and a showy worship is generally attractive. The human race are fond of shows; they always have been. There never was a false religion that was popular which was not spectacular. But as with the ear so with the eye. There must be change, which some people (making a virtue of necessity) find it convenient to call progress. The eye will tire from the sameness of the scene. Hence, in such a religion, the doe trine of "development" comes in to supply a defect. One novelty only insures the birth of another. The disposition of human nature, which clamored for a constantly increasing stimulant to satisfy itching ears in preaching what will entertain rather than what will sanctify and save, that same demands new forms to fill the eye. Hence development is an invariable element of a sensational or dramatic religion. The goal reached by one is infidelity, and the end of the other is idolatry. One is the school of the Rationalists, the other the school of the [28/29] Romanists. This is the punishment which God sends upon men who undertake to improve inspiration on one side, by substituting philosophy for the gospel, and on the other, by dramatizing what He sent them to preach. The ear symbolizes one sect, and the eye the other, both having in common that intense individuality which is the lifeblood of independency, manifested in that form of private judgment which grants a license to every man to say and to do just what is right in his own eyes; and if the Church should happen to dissent from what is said and done, the case is settled in the court of conscience, and that is the end of the controversy. There never was a state of things since the days of St. Paul, where the signs of the times constituted a more forcible commentary upon his admonition to Timothy: "Make full proof of thy ministry." Woe be to the Protestant Episcopal Church in this country, if she do not in this extraordinary exigency "make full proof of her ministry." This is her opportunity. The fruits of other systems, in the errors which they have produced; the prevailing and increasing spirit of dissatisfaction; the looking and longing of multitudes for a better faith, and a safer home; the tendencies to change in worship and in doctrine on the part of other bodies of Christians, in the direction of a Liturgical Service, all these constitute the Church's opportunity.
But not more in the older than in the newer portions of the land are the fields white, inviting [29/30] us to a grand harvest. There are other indications. There is to be a great battle with infidelity on this, continent. The enemy is already marshaling his forces. Every species of unbelief is recruiting for the contest. Every thing that can be is being pressed into the service. Learning, art, science, philosophy, philanthropy, are coming into line for the onset. Our Church must meet the shock. The battle-ground is chosen. In view of such a muster and such a fight, there comes a voice from Heaven to every man who has taken the vows of ordination, "Make full proof of thy ministry." But this is not the only trial which must soon be met. The Papal Communion has chosen this country as her battleground. She is training every power for the conflict. She is planting her fortresses everywhere. She is throwing her advanced guard of well-trained men to the front. She is cunningly courting every influence of political power which may be made available for her purpose. In view of such an array the words of St. Paul receive a fresh impulse which should send them to the heart of every bishop in the Church, "Make full proof of thy ministry." But what do we need that we may improve these opportunities and be prepared for these exigencies? We need a new consecration to the great work which Christ has given His people to do. We need a fresh baptism of the Holy Ghost. We need the fire of a true missionary spirit rekindled in the heart of every son and daughter of the Church. We have [30/31] all else; we have the Word of God as He wrote it; we have the Sacraments as Christ ordained them; we have an Apostolic Ministry, and a Scriptural Liturgy. We have all that Heaven has given, as a complete and divine instrumentality for the conquest of the world, the flesh, and the devil. We have the commission from Almighty God; we have the promise of the presence of His only Son; we have the armor of the gospel. Shall we move upon the enemy in his strongholds, and fill heaven and earth with the hallelujahs of victory? Shall we do it? Yes, if we "make full proof of our ministry," not otherwise. We must remember that the work of the Church is God's work, and no device of man. It requires no merely human appliances to insure its success. It is supernatural in its origin, in its energies, in its end. It is the Holy Ghost that makes effectual the means we use. These are not dependent for their power or progress upon appeals to the ear or the eye of mankind, an accommodation to their tastes or their passions. It is God's blessing alone that can make effectual the means He has ordained for the triumph of His own kingdom, and we may rest assured He will both honor and bless His own appointment. With an apostolic commission, with a form of worship scriptural and edifying, sublime in its very simplicity, we may go forth, in the name of God, to possess the land. If we take more we burden ourselves, dishonor God, and defeat the great object of our [31/32] ministry. Our great country is opening its vast territories, with their boundless capabilities; an empire in embryo. Who shall possess it? We are among the first in the field, and no longer, as formerly, at the "eleventh hour." Shall we hold this mighty empire for Christ and the Church? If so, we must fight for it. These vast plains and mountains are peopled by strong men, not a few of them strong in unbelief, giants in error and infidelity. Shall we go forth to meet these athlete, loaded cap-a-pie with the heavy, clumsy armor of the Middle Ages, or shall we meet these champions, furnished with our divine commission, clad in the panoply of the gospel, with just the sling and stone which the Church puts in our hand, relying alone upon God's blessing, upon His own glorious gospel, with its word and ordinances as the means of that victory, which will plant the banner of the Cross upon every mountain top in the land? Let us stand before the world with an unbroken front. Let us advance on the enemy with a column which is a unit. Let us forget our follies, and be no more children, and rise to the full stature of men in Christ Jesus; let us prove ourselves soldiers worthy to fight under the great, Captain of our Salvation, and with no extremes to weaken our power we shall advance to that victory which will glorify God in the salvation of men, who shall live and die in Christ.
And now, my very dear brother, where can I, [32/33] before closing, find words more instructive, more affectionately expressive of the Church's interest in you and in your great work, on which she this day sends you forth, by the authority of her Divine Head, than those of Paul to Timothy: "Make full proof of thy ministry." Make full proof of it in your own inner life; ever remembering that the power of a true success lies in the gift of the Holy Ghost. "Do the work of an Evangelist." "Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." "Neglect not the gift that is in thee." Were it not that you go forth in the name of God to do His work, with your commission as a successor of the Apostles, you might well shrink from the labors and the perils of the undertaking. But this is God's great work. It is to be done in His own way. He will surely bless, and that abundantly, His own ordained means for its completion. He will be ever with His Church. He will make good the promise that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." This to you, my brother, will be a tower of strength. As you survey the almost boundless field of your jurisdiction, its mountain ranges and its vast plains, you, will be cheered, amid the magnitude of your labors and the severity of your trials in your missionary journeyings, by the recollection that you have not only the authority but the sympathy of the Church, and the prayers of the faithful morning and evening. With [33/34] such an assurance you may daily cheerfully gird on anew the armor of the gospel, and go out to meet the enemy, refreshed for the contest by a renewed ghostly strength. If your field be vast and difficult and sometimes dangerous, yet it is glorious. You go where foundations are to be laid. You go, under God, to do much in moulding the future destiny of new States. You go to meet the wants of a coming people as they come. Thank God, the Church has at last opened her eyes, and changed her policy. Her course for the future is to be first among the first. You will find the enemy in the field, in some places strongly intrenched. You are the Church's chosen champion to lead on her consecrated hosts to the onset. Such an office, in such a service, is full of responsibility, which any man might shrink from if he trusted to his own strength. Wisdom, patience, courage, faith, firmness, diligence, and devotion are all required in no small measure. It is only for you to keep your eye on Christ amid the din of battle, and "make full proof of your ministry," and you will gain a triumph which will send a thrill of joy through earth and heaven. More perhaps than any other bishop in the Church you will have need to exercise the wisdom of the "serpent with the harmlessness of the dove," not because you area the youngest on the bench of bishops, and to-day will probably be the youngest bishop in Christendom,--but for another reason: I have spoken of religious bodies who have presumed, [34/35] to change Christ's ordinances by exalting tradition into a coordinate authority with the Bible, of others who have modified the ministry, and of those who repudiate the Sacraments. A part of your jurisdiction is possessed by a sect who pretend to have a Bible of their own; who boast of a special revelation; whose religion is a moral abomination. These people are strong in numbers, and fanatical in spirit. Your mission is not to them but among them. It is rather by the steady, peaceful, gentle, but firm and consistent maintenance of the principles of the gospel, by letting its pure light shine in the midst of them, that you may hope to reveal to them the enormities of their system, in contrast with the beauties of holiness. Whatever may serve to provoke persecution at the present time will be quite sure to defeat the object of the Church's mission. Your field is before you. It is full of labor, and it is full of promise; it lies at the very front. All the qualities of a good soldier will be needed in this great campaign. I bid you God-speed in the name of the Church. I welcome you to your jurisdiction as one of my nearest neighbors, and assure you of my abiding love, my deepest sympathies, and my fervent prayers. "Make full proof of thy ministry." May the Church behold you with grateful admiration at the head of your army, leading them on to victory, bearing above your head the banner of the Cross, and planting it with your own hand on every mountain-top, with shoutings [35/36] of triumph; and when the great Captain of our Salvation shall call you to your reward, may the exclamation of the great Apostle to the Gentiles be your farewell words to the world and to the Church: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."