S. C. ATKINSON, PRINTER
NEWARK, Feb. 18, 1856.
Right Rev. and Dear Sir:
The undersigned, who had the pleasure of hearing the admirable Sermon, delivered by you, on the occasion of the Institution of the Rector of the House of Prayer, believing that a wider dissemination of the eloquent and forcible declaration of the uses of the Church would advance the cause of divine truth, respectfully ask a copy, for publication.
Affectionately, your brethren and servants, in the Church,
JOHN W. SHACKELFORD,
Rector of the House of Prayer.
DANIEL CONDIT, GEORGE A. MAYHEW, Wardens.
JOHN COX, JOSEPH L. ALDEN, B. T. NICHOLS, EDGAR SHERMAN, Vestrymen.
W. H. N. STEWART, Rector of Grace Church, Newark.
HANNIBAL GOODWIN, Rector of St. Paul's Church, Newark.
EUGENE AUGUSTUS HOFFMAN, Rector of Christ Church, Elizabeth.
JAMES L. BUSH, Rector elect of Grace Church, Orange.
JOSHUA SMITH, Rector elect of St. Philip's Church, Newark.
MATTHEW H. HENDERSON, Rector of Trinity Church, Newark.
WM. A. LEACH, Minister of St. Barnabas' Church, Newark.
EDWARD O. FLAGG, Rector of St. Paul's Church, Paterson.
J. D. L. MOORE, officiating in Zion Church, Belvidere, and St. James' Church, Knowlton.
J. D. ROSE, Missionary, officiating in St. Matthew's German Church, Newark.
J. W. HAYES.
The Right Rev. BISHOP DOANE.
WHAT MEAN YE, BY THIS SERVICE?
Exodus xii. 26.
THE point, upon which, our age most prides itself, is, that it seeks the useful. Its motto is, "Cui Bono?" What's the use? Utilitarian is its name of highest favour. And, justly, so, if rightly understood. God doeth nothing in vain. Waste has no place, in His creation. "Gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost," was the injunction of perfect wisdom, at the very moment, that it proved itself omnipotent. "What is the use?" then, is a proper question, to be asked; so it be, "with meekness, and with fear." For that, which is of no use, God can have, and man should have, no favour. The error, which has justly brought discredit, on this question, has been the limitation of utility, to temporal things, and subjects of the senses. A proud, and most pernicious, limitation! Proud, since it undertakes to comprehend the infinite; and most pernicious, since it sets the shadow, above the substance; and postpones the immortal, to the mortal. "Canst thou, by searching, find out God?" "The secret things belong unto the Lord." "The things, which are seen, are temporal; but, the things, which are not seen, are eternal."
While, then, we earnestly and constantly protest, against the limitations of Utilitarianism, we cannot but allow the proper application of its tests. And, in the subjects, which come, fairly, in the range of human comprehension, however high, however holy, they may be, it is not only lawful, but most strictly dutiful, to show their fitness, to endure them, [3/4] True, that whatever God reveals, or God ordains, we must receive, and use, with reverence; however it transcends our comprehension; as done, by Him, Who "doeth all things, well." As true, that, what He teaches, or appoints, so far as He adapts it to our understanding, we are carefully and constantly to shew, in all the wisdom of its plan, and all its fitness, for our use. "The secret things," indeed, "belong unto the Lord our God." Why He hath done so, or how, what He Hath done, works, for its gracious end, we cannot, often, know; and may not venture to inquire. "But, those things, which are revealed, belong to us, and to our children." These, we may study. These, we may admire. Of these, we may discourse. These are commended, not to our knowledge, only, but our practice; "that we may do all the words of this law."
I design to carry out this train of thought, in application to a subject, much in the mouths of men; and, yet, from the distrust, with which it is, by many, still regarded, far from being understood, even in its obvious practical relations. My theme, to day, will be the Church. My object, to set forth THE USES OF THE CHURCH. "What mean ye, by this service?" I shall consider, now, three uses of the Church.
As "the pillar and ground of the truth;"
As the fold of peace and salvation;
As the body of the Lord Jesus Christ;
The Church is for the use of men: meets all their spiritual necessities; supplies the needful strength, for their infirmities; and brings them, through the comforts of His grace, to be partakers of the riches of His glory.
I. The Church is for use, as the pillar and ground of the truth; and perfectly adapted, in this office, to the necessities of our condition. Truth is a trust, from God. As it comes from Him, it is pure, perfect, and beyond all price. As it is in Him, it changes not; one, like Himself, immutable, eternal. But, in us, through our infirmity and sinfulness, there is, not [4/5] only, no fitness to retain it, but a prejudice, against it; which is certain to result, in its dilution and adulteration. St. Paul admits this tendency, and deems it due to his apostleship, to disavow it; when he says, in writing to the Corinthians, "We are not as many, which corrupt the Word of God:" [2 Corinthians ii. 17.] the expression, in the original, being that which is applied to thievish tradesmen, who dilute their liquors, and adulterate their groceries. It is a trust, then, which is not safe, with us. The Word of God, St. Paul has told us, may be handled deceitfully. The Holy Scriptures, St. Peter tells us, may be wrested, by unlearned and unstable souls, to their own destruction. Is there a doubt, that it may be so? Is there a doubt, that it has been so? Surely, there can be none. It is too sadly, too severely, true. What mean those names, unless it be so, of Pelagian, Calvinist, Arminian? What mean, if it be not so, those volumes upon volumes, those piles of volumes, upon piles of volumes, which the wit of men has filled with "doubtful disputations," as to the meaning of God's Holy Word? What means that separation into schools, of those, who bear the same generic name; and, yet, hold separate councils? Can all be right? Can truth be manifold? Can there be two faiths? Not, till there be two Lords: "one Lord," as the Apostle says, "one faith."
Nor, is this all. Nor, yet, the worst. "These are but questions," some may say, "of words. One must not be too strict, in judgment, as to unity. In the great truths, no doubt, these all agree." Waiving the question, as to great or little, where the truth is drawn, into discussion; we need not make a distant search, to find the question gravely stated, whether there be a Word of God? Whether there be any, with authority to act, for Him, in holy things? Whether there be a Church, whether there be a Day, of God? Nay, in effect--since Pantheism is but the euphuistic name, for Atheism--[5/6] whether there be a God, at all? This, among those who still maintain the name of Christians! This, among those who do not yet cast off the book, they call the Bible! This, among those who boast of their descent, from Puritan and Pilgrim forefathers! Let it not be thought, that this is spoken, in unkindness. Let it not be thought, that this is boasting, on our part. It is historic truth. Not to speak of it will not change it. Not to know, will not unmake it. It is so. While the descendants of those bold and self-denying men, who, with the Bible, in their bosoms, sought a home, here, in a howling wilderness; and laid the ground plan of a College, before they ceiled their houses, have cast off, in multitudes, as "old wives' fables," what their fathers clung to, as their heritage and hope, the Church, which, in the Browns, and others, was thrust out, as unfit to have a place, in that, their newfound Paradise, stands, now, as it stood then, precisely; holds the same faith, rehearses the same creeds, teaches the same catechism, offers the same prayers, sings the same songs of praise. Times have changed. Men have changed. Manners have changed. Institutions have changed. Governments have changed. The very face of nature has been changed. The faith which was delivered, once, to the old Saints: in which, alone, St. Paul would glory; which comforted Ignatius, among lions; and, which Cranmer clung to, with his burning hand, remains unchanged: like its all-glorious Author, "the same, yesterday, to-day, and forever." Again, I say, all boasting is excluded. We have nothing that we did not, first, receive. That we have kept it is not of ourselves. The Giver of it has been the Keeper of it, for us. The Church of the living God has been, to us, its pillar and its ground. The waves might roar. The winds might rage. The storms might fall. That ground was unremovable. That pillar was unshaken. There, hung the truth, upon it. His truth, Who hung, for us, upon the Cross. In the blackest darkness, it was legible, by its own light. The fiercest flash, [6/7] that went before the most terrific peal, made it, only, the more luminous. Men might close their eyes, upon it. Men might harden their hearts, against it. Still, there, it was! Year after year, read, in the same holy lessons; year after year, proclaimed, in the same venerable creeds; year after year, chanted, in the same lofty hymns; year after year, professed, in the same solemn litanies! Thus, has God, as it were, taken, from the hands of them, whom He has gathered, in His Church, the opportunity to tamper with His truth. She is its Keeper, [Article XX, "The Church"--"a Witness and a Keeper of Holy Writ."] whether they esteem its precious trust, or not. She is its Witness, whether they will hear, or not, its faithful voice. A Keeper, divinely put in trust: "go ye, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them," "and teaching them all things, whatsoever I have commanded you;" "preach the Gospel to every creature." A Witness, divinely authenticated, and kept in the truth: "lo, I am with you, alway, even unto the end of the world;" "when, He the Spirit of truth shall come, He will guide you into all truth." That it has truly been so, rests not on our word. It is a fact in history. It invites consideration. It defies denial. "The contradiction of tongues," saith Bacon, "doth every where meet with us, out of the tabernacle of God; therefore, whithersoever thou shalt turn thyself, thou shalt find no end of controversies, except thou withdraw thyself into that tabernacle." [Essays]
When we consider, in how short a time, these gross departures from the truth have been effected; that, in a land of Bibles, and of Schools, and in an age of intellectual splendour, less than two hundred years have brought in errors, such as centuries of ignorance and gloom have failed to breed, it must be felt, that this is a most serious matter. It will not do, to make a party question of it. It will not do to call hard names. It will not do, to try to wink the evil out [7/8] of sight. The fact is undeniable, that multitudes of those who boast themselves most loudly of their Puritan descent, deny, that Jesus Christ is God. The fact is undeniable, that they, who have gone that far, from the truth, are hastening farther, from it; and evaporating all the doctrines of the Gospel, into transcendental smoke. The fact is undeniable, that Conventions have been called, and have had frequent sittings, to re-consider and discuss the very elements of revelation, as open questions, one and all. The practical results of such proceedings cannot be mistaken. God will take vengeance of such bold deniers of His word, in giving them over, to their own self-will. Atheist France more than re-enacted the revolting horrors of the first chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. The thing, which hath been, in this matter, is the thing, which shall be. And, they, who slept securely, when the truth of God was changed into a lie, will wake too late, when all shall be dissolved, that constitutes the safety and the charm of life: the rights of property confounded; the sanctities of nature disregarded; brute force, the substitute of law; the very fires upon the household hearth, put out, with blood.
II. Contemplate, now, another of the uses of the Church. That, which, for permanence, stability and certainty, is set forth, as a pillar on a basis, the firm upholder of God's truth, against the waywardness of men, among the changes of the world, becomes a fold, when the divine Instructor would attract men to it, as a safe and peaceful home. Just as the Saviour, who, as the Propitiation for all sin, is called "the Lamb of God," becomes, as the Protector and Preserver of His people, "the good Shepherd:" so beautifully realized, in that sweet sketch of Overbeck's, when, bringing home the wanderer, on His shoulder, from the mountains, the sheep come out to meet Him; and the rejoicing dam moans out her grateful pleasure, as she rubs herself, against the Saviour of her weanling. The Church is for use, as the one, fold of [8/9] peace and safety for mankind; and, as such, is perfectly adapted to the supply of their infirmities. Man has a social nature. He, who hath given him "households, like a flock of sheep," hath provided, in His Church, for household nurture, and for household training. The hope of every race is, in its young. Most of all, it is the hope of man. There is, indeed, no limit to the power of grace. A "Son of Thunder," in the contact and companionship of Jesus, may become the very darling of His love. And Saul, the ravager of Christian homes, become, the meek and patient Paul. But, commonly, it is not so. It is to them that seek Him, early, that the promise is, without exception, they shall find Him. It is of the child that is trained up, "in the way he should go," that the pledge is, without qualification, "he shall not depart from it." Beautiful and gracious is the providence, with which, the Maker's plan combines, with the Redeemer's purchase. The very helplessness of "little children" is turned to their advantage. It brings them, to the Church. It opens the font, for their new birth, of water and the Spirit. It bares her bosom, for their nurture. It provides teachers for them; meek and gentle, as the Master's self was meek and gentle, in the pastors of the flock. It prepares lessons, which adapt themselves, in their hands, who have charge of them, to every age and circumstance and disposition. Graciously, do they receive them; after His example, who "took them in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them." Graciously, do they watch over them; after His example, who said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God." Graciously, do they encourage them; after His example, who, to the murmurs of the Scribes and Pharisees, against the children, singing, in the Temple, "Hosanna, to the Son of David," replied, in David' words, "Yea, have ye never read, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, He has perfected praise?" There is no feature of [9/10] the Church, which shows, more clearly, that she is, for use, than her provision for the care of children, and the culture of the home affections. From the moment, that the infant, of an hour, is made the child of her dear Saviour, by adopting grace, she never, if she has her way, lets go of him. No mother ever watched so fondly, for her only child. She meets the dawning of his new intelligence. She helps the opening of his tender faculties. She furthers the developement of his renewed affections. Day by day, she instructs him. Day by day, she spreads about him the panoply of prayer. Day by day, she teaches and encourages him to pray. Her rule of conduct is St. Paul's; "bring them up, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Her working pattern is St. Timothy; who, "from a child," knew the Holy Scriptures, which were able to make him "wise, unto salvation." He is indoctrinated, daily, in her most holy faith. He is exhorted, daily, to her most holy practice. In her Creeds, he is taught what he is to believe; in the Ten Commandments, what he is to do, to his soul's health. While, in the use of the Lord's Prayer, he is reminded of his utter inability, to do, or to believe, aright; in that most simple, yet most touching, exhortation: "my good child, know this, that thou art not able to do these things, of thyself, nor to walk in the commandments of God, and to serve Him, without His special grace; which thou must learn, at all times, to call for, by diligent prayer: let me hear, therefore, if thou canst say the Lord's Prayer." Never, was summary, so admirable, of Christian faith and practice, as this Catechism presents. Never, were relative duties sketched, with such a pencil, as in its lesson of what we owe, to God, and to our neighbour. Never, were faith and fear and love and hope and piety and prayer and praise so blended, as in the one. Never, the claims of every relation, and every rank, and every condition, and every circumstance, of life, so balanced and adjusted, as in the other: filial piety, loyalty to [10/11] government, pastoral obedience, domestic subordination; respect to betters, kindness to equals, consideration for inferiors; the heart, the eye, the tongue, the hand; kindness and honesty and gentleness and purity; contentment and industry and fidelity: and, all, under that only word, which could combine them all, "my neighbour." Never, has the world beheld such children, such brothers, such sisters, such wives, such husbands, such parents, such friends, such servants, such masters, as have been trained up, in the simple teaching of this Catechism. Never, for soldiers, or sailors, or teachers, or magistrates, or pastors, or rulers, will the world fare so well, as when it takes them, from the ranks of them, who have endured its faithful discipline. As a system of morals, it is so wholesome; as a school for manners, it is so manly; as a lesson of piety, it is so artless; as a guide for life, so thorough; so minute, and, yet, so comprehensive; so homely, and, yet, so elevated; that, were this the only service, that the Church has rendered, to the world, it would constitute her its inestimable benefactor.
And, how instructive, how impressive, how affecting, the mere order of the Prayer Book! The service, for the administration of Infant Baptism, had concluded, with these words: "Ye are to take care, that this child be brought to the Bishop, to be confirmed by him, so soon as he can say the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, and is sufficiently instructed in the other parts of the Church Catechism, set forth, for that purpose;" while, in the rubric of the Catechism, the Pastor's duty is as clearly stated, "so soon as children are come to a competent age, and can say the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, and can answer to the other questions of this Short Catechism, they shall be brought to the Bishop." These plain injunctions, we suppose, have all been duly kept. The Christian Pastor has brought up the Christian child, that he, whom Jesus Christ had left, in the chief charge over His [11/12] flock, might do, as He Himself had done before, to little children, lay hands on him, and bless him: that, so, he may be welcome, at the Supper, which the Saviour spreads, for the refreshment of the soul; and, meet, through grace, to be partaker of its blessings. He is, now, divinely qualified, for the responsibilities, the duties and the cares, of life. Now, he may enter, with the hope, that God will bless it, on that holy state, which was appointed, as the crown of Eden; and is still permitted, as the solace of the Fall. But, next in order to the Marriage Service, come the Visitation and Communion of the Sick, and the Burial of the Dead. And he must, therefore, do so, with the honest admonition, plain before him, that its highest joy must be alloyed, by sickness; that its most prolonged duration must be closed, in death. Sweet, peaceful, happy, home of our frail, suffering, loving, dying, nature! Church, which the Saviour opened, as the fold of His dear flock! Here, side, by side, with those, whom friendship knits, with us, and love makes one, we listen, to the word, which speaks, to us, from heaven! Here, side by side, with our best loved, before the holy rail, we kneel, to take the pledges of the love of Jesus, and of our true life, in Him! And, here, at last, within its blessed shade, we shall lie down, we and our darlings, side by side; to wait, in patient hope, the morning of the resurrection.
III. For, chiefly is the Church for use--and this, its most immediate, though its ultimate, relation; the first, to bless us, and our blessing, through eternity--as it is the body of our Lord Jesus Christ: bringing us, through the comfort of His grace, to be partakers of the riches of His glory. This is an aspect of the Church, which differs from the two, just now presented. They commend themselves, in obvious practical results, to the observance of our senses. This speaks, to our faith. The former only need the exercise of common candour, to be received. The latter comes in contact with the pride of the carnal heart. "Except I shall see in His [12/13] hands," says doubtful Thomas, "the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." "Thomas," the condescending Saviour gently said, "because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed." But is it really so, that seeing, only, is believing? Are there no mysteries, in nature, which no man can comprehend? Has any, yet, determined what the Aurora Borealis is? Has any, yet, detected the magnetic principle? Has any ascertained the point of time, at which the embryo man becomes a living soul? Have any of the secret things been made apparent, which wrap our natural birth, in mystery? And, because we know not all, shall nothing be admitted? Because we see not why, or how, shall process and result be, both, rejected? Or, if we receive "the witness of men," if we allow the testimony of sense, is not "the witness of God" greater, than both? Is not God, "greater than our heart, Who knoweth all things?" He teaches us, that, when we were dead, in sin, His blessed Son gave up His life, upon the Cross, that we might live, through Him. He teaches us, that, now, through faith, in Him, the dead, in trespasses and sins, may rise, with Him, to everlasting life. He teaches us, that, only, as we are in Him, we can be sharers of His life. Hence, that the travail of the Cross might not be lost, on us, the gracious institution of the Church: the living Vine, in which, alone, the branches can bear fruit; the living Body, in which, alone, the members can have life. "I am the Vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for, without Me, ye can do nothing." "That we be henceforth no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but, speaking the truth, in love, may grow up, unto Him, in all things, even Christ, from whom the whole Body, fitly joined together, and compacted, by that, which [13/14] every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the Body, to the edifying of itself, in love?"
Is it a question, what this Body, is? St. Paul replies, "the Church, which is His Body:" [Ephesians i. 22, 23.] in the language of the Thanksgiving, in the Communion Service, "very members, incorporate, in the mystical Body of Thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people."
Is it a question, how we are made members of it? St. Paul replies, "by one Spirit, we are all baptized into one Body:" [1 Corinthians xii. 13.] in the language of the Baptismal Exhortation, "seeing now," "that this person," or "this child, is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ's Church."
Is it a question, how we may continue in the comfort and refreshment of this divine incorporation? St. Paul replies, "the cup of blessing, which we bless, is it not the communion," or participation "of the Blood of Christ? The bread, which we break, is it not the communion" or participation "of the Body of Christ?" [1 Corinthians x. 16.]--in the language of the Invocation, in the Communion Service, "that we, receiving them, according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of His death and passion, may be partakers of His most blessed Body and Blood."
Is it a question, what the mutual relation is, which is thus formed? St. Paul replies, "He is the Head, over all things;" [Ephesians i. 22.] we are "the Body of Christ, and members in particular:" [1 Corinthians xii. 27.] "knit together," in the language of the Collect for All Saints' Day, "in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical Body of Thy Son, Christ our Lord;" and, again, in the Communion service, "made one Body, with Him, that we may evermore dwell in Him, and He in us."
Is it a question, what the advantage is of this divine incorporation? St. Peter replies, "that we might be partakers of the divine nature;" [2 St. Peter i. 4.] St. John, "of His fulness have [14/15] all received;" [St. John i. 16] and St. Paul, "the fulness of Him, Who filleth all in all:" [Ephesians i. 23] "that we and all others," in the language of the Invocation, in the Communion service, "who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of Thy Son Jesus Christ, be filled with Thy grace and Heavenly benediction, and made one Body with Him, that He may dwell in them, and they in Him."
Such is the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. Such is the witness, contemporaneous with their practice, whose after teachings, Scripture, but, records, which, through the providence of God, has been preserved, in confirmation and interpretation, of that teaching. To reject the one, is to reject all testimony. To resist the other, is to resist the word of God. It comes to us, as part and parcel of the only revelation of His will. If we refuse it, there is nothing that we may not refuse. The things, which God hath joined, man, at his peril, puts asunder. "No man is actually in Him," says Richard Hooker, "but they, in whom He actually is. For, he which hath not the Son of God, hath not life. I am the Vine, ye are the branches: he which abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; but the branch, severed from the Vine, withereth. We are, therefore, adopted sons of God, to eternal life, by participation of the only begotten Son of God; whose life is the well-spring and the cause of ours. It is too cold an interpretation," he continues, "whereby some men expound our being in Christ, to import nothing else but only, that the self-same nature, which maketh us to be men, is in Him, and maketh Him man, as we are. For, what man is there in the world, which hath not, so far forth, communion, with Jesus Christ? The Church is in Christ, as Eve was in Adam. Yea, by grace, we are every of us in Christ, and in His Church, as by nature we are in those our first parents. God made Eve, of the rib of Adam. And, His Church, He frameth, out of the very flesh, the very wounded and bleeding [15/16] side of the Son of Man. His Body crucified, and His Blood shed, for the life of the world, are the true elements of that heavenly being, which maketh us such as Himself is, of Whom we come." Such is the blessing, that it is, to be in the Church. So truly and intimately is he, who, by a living faith, is in the Church, in Jesus Christ: "for we are members," in the Apostle's phrase, "of His Body, of His Flesh, and of His Bones." [Ecclesiastical Polity, V. lvi.]
What can declare, what words of men or angels, in this highest, truest, real and enduring, aspect of the Church, the measure of its use?
Is unity an object, to be sought? In the affecting words of that beseeching prayer of Jesus, on the night before He suffered: "that they all may be one, as Thou Father art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us?" [St. John xvii. 21.] The very essence of the Church, in purpose and in fact, is Unity: "that, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, He might gather together, in one, all things, in Christ;" [Ephesians i. 10] and, again, "there is one Body and one Spirit," "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." [Ephesians iv. 4,5]
Are human sinfulness and helplessness to be set forth, in most impressive terms, and all, that we can have, of help or hope, declared, to be of grace? What more expressive demonstration, that it is so, than, that the Cross, with all its bitter agony, did not suffice, for the full measure of His love, Who died on it for us; but when all its pangs were borne, and all its tears were shed, and all its bitterness of death was passed, the heart-wound of that pierced side must be reopened, as it were; and man admitted into Him: that, so, he might be kept, by grace, through faith, unto salvation?
Is the necessity of holiness to be proclaimed, and urged, on every heart, with constant, earnest, and resistless, importunity? What illustration, of its indispensableness to our salvation, so vivid, so impressive, so appalling, as, that, otherwise, [16/17] we cannot stay in Him, whose members, in our Baptism, we became; His perfect purity revolting from the contact of our sinfulness. His very heart, which broke itself, for us, upon the Cross, and yearns to keep us in its dear embrace, rejecting, as impossible, to its unsullied holiness, the very shadow of our guilt. "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy." [1 Corinthians iii. 17.]
Does our frail nature need continual succours of refreshment and of strength? Does it long for the companionship of the dear partners of its toils and trials, that have fallen beside it, on the way? Does it daily feel the exhaustion of, its mortal vigour; and anticipate the grave, that, in an hour, may open, at our feet? "In Christ," the living Bread, Which came from heaven, the living Water, Which springs up to everlasting life, it finds its needs supplied: "he that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth in Me shall never thirst." [St. John vi. 35.] "In Christ," the dead, who die in Him, are gathered, safe, from every harm; and, only, wait His coming, to mount up with us, on wings, as eagles, and be ever with the Lord. "In Christ," "the Resurrection and the Life, he that believeth shall live though he die, and he that liveth and believeth in Him shall not die eternally." [St. John xi. 25, 26] "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law: thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ." [1 Corinthians, xv. 57]
Has the enquiry been suggested, by the solemn office, which engaged our hearts, this morning, "What mean ye, by this service?" The answer springs, from the discourse, spontaneous, and conclusive. He, who has been set here, this day, with full authority, from God, to minister, in holy things, is held accountable, in his degree, for all these USES OF THE CHURCH; and, in, and through, them, is to execute his office, to the good of souls, and to the glory of the Saviour. The truth, of which the Church is made the ground and pillar, [17/18] he is rightly to divide. The sheep and lambs, here, gathered, in the providence of God, he is to feed and tend; that they be gathered, at the last, in the One Shepherd's only Fold. Into the Body of the Lord, he is to graft the wretched remnants of our fallen race; and, in the ministry of those high mysteries, of which he is Steward, for the Lord, keep them, by grace, through faith, unto salvation. How high the trust! How fearful the responsibility! How madly ventured on, but in the omnipotence of grace! How vainly undertaken, but in the confidence of your entire co-operation! Therefore, is it ordered, that, after the Sermon, "the Instituted Minister shall proceed to the Communion Service, and to administer the Holy Eucharist to his Congregation;" that, so, they may all be "made to drink into one Spirit." Therefore is it, also, ordered, that, after the Benediction, "the Wardens, Vestry and others, shall salute and welcome him, bidding him, God speed;" that, so, the cheerful greeting and the cordial pressure, which assure his human nature of your sympathy, may bind you all together, in His love, Whose grace, alone, can speed the mutual work. How useless the provision, if the congregation turn their backs upon the Holy Eucharist, which he administers! How hopeless the engagement, if the lip alone salute him, with, "God speed;" the hand of welcome have no heart in it. My reverend brother, my beloved brethren, the bond, which binds you, now, as flock and shepherd, is an immortal bond. It knits you, into one, in Jesus Christ. It links your destinies, forever. You never can be, as if this service had not been. You must be worse, or better, for it; in life, and through eternity. And, when you stand together, before God, the issues of this day will stand before you, to your joy or woe, in the inevitable brightness of that awful judgment throne. On the one hand, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account." And, on the other, "Be thou faithful unto death; and I will give thee a crown of life."