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A Bright and Shining Light

A Sermon Preached by the Rt. Rev. Paul Mathews, D.D., Bishop of New Jersey

on October 31, 1932, in S. Mary's Church, Burlington, New Jersey, at the Diocesan Commemoration Service in Observance of the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Consecration of the Rt. Rev. George Washington Doane, D.D. as Second Bishop of New Jersey, October 31, 1832. 11 pp.

"He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for season to rejoice in His light."—S. John 5:35

ONE hundred years ago today, on the eve of All Saints', in S. Paul's Chapel, New York City, the Rt. Rev. George Washington Doane was consecrated as Bishop of New Jersey.

The election of a Bishop was a less cumbersome proceeding in those days than it is now. The election was held at a special Convention of the Diocese held in Christ Church, New Brunswick, on October 3rd, 1832. There were some fourteen clergymen and forty-one laymen who constituted that Convention; there were less than twenty-five parishes in the Diocese at that time. He accepted his election on October 19th, and was consecrated on October 31st. The whole thing was done within a month.

This celerity was due, I suppose, to the fact that the General Convention was in session from the 17th to the 31st of October, so all Canonical consents could be quickly obtained.

Doane was a native son of New Jersey, born in Trenton, May 27th, 1799, which was the year of Washington's death. I have often wondered how it was that he came to be named for Washington. I think it was just an early evidence of the high place which the first President had already won in the hearts of his countrymen.

And so it happens that we are this year celebrating the bicentennial of Washington and the centennial of Doane.

Doane had been rector of Trinity Church, Boston, for two years, and assistant minister for two years before that, when he was elected Bishop. If we think that this is the age of flaming youth, let us ask how many young men of Doane's age have gone as far and as fast as he did. Rector of a great parish in Boston at thirty-one, and Bishop of New Jersey at thirty-three.

The Church in New Jersey became an organized Diocese in 1785, and only four Dioceses, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, are older, the two former by two years, and the two latter by one; but New Jersey enjoys the unique and unenviable distinction of having gotten along for thirty years without any Bishop at all.

In the first year of my Episcopate, we celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of the consecration of our first Bishop, John Croes, and now as the close of my service here seems to be approaching, I have the honour and privilege of sharing in this anniversary, which brings us close to the sesquicentennial of our Diocesan life.

Whether it was the cause or the effect of these thirty years of Episcopacy without a Bishop, when Bishop Doane became Bishop of New Jersey he had to do what Bishop Croes did, namely, to assume the Rectorship of a parish in order to have a living, and so he became Rector of this old Parish of S. Mary's, Burlington, which even at that time had been in existence for one hundred and thirty years.

Here he set his seat. This Church might rightly claim to be the first Cathedral of the Anglican Communion in America. I think I am right in saying that the Episcopal Throne placed in the Choir of this Church was the first of its kind in the United States. By act of the State Legislature the official acts of the Bishop of New Jersey may be recorded in the Registers of this Parish. That they are not so recorded may be considered as an act of grace on the part of the Bishop.

Doane was Bishop for nearly twenty-seven years; but he was only sixty when he died, in 1859. During his life he was recognized as a leader, and, looking back over the century, he stands out in the life of the American Church as one of the first ten great American Churchmen.

My list would be Seabury, White, Hobart, Chase, Doane, Whipple, Tuttle, Rowe, Brooks, and Brent. Your lists might differ in detail, but some of the names would be the same, and I believe Doane's name would appear on almost every list.

I take some pride in knowing that we have a claim on at least two of these other pioneer leaders, Seabury and Hobart, each of whom began his ministry in New Jersey. Even if we did begin our Diocesan life with thirty years of peace from prelacy, we did have some recognized Episcopal timber in the Diocese.

Doane's leadership was immediate. It was due to personal qualities rather than to his position. He was a great Missionary. He was a great spiritual leader, a great Churchman; and he was a great Educator.

He was a pioneer in these things. He took his place at once as a leader. In the General Convention of 1835, the first in which he sat in the House of Bishops, he led in the Missionary revival of which that memorable year was the milestone. Jackson Kemper was consecrated as the first Missionary Bishop of the American Church. He was Bishop of Missouri and Indiana, and afterwards of Wisconsin. His territory was the great Northwest, and he called himself the "Bishop of all outdoors."

Doane led in this. His was the mind to see the vision and the hand to shape the work. He was the chairman of a Committee of the two Houses of General Convention on the restatement of the Missionary policy, and the reorganization of the Missionary work of the Church. We have the original of this report, recently, presented to the Diocese, and treasured in our archives, written in Doane's characteristic handwriting. In it is declared the foundation principle that the Church is itself the one and only Missionary organization and society, and that every baptized member of the Church is by virtue of that fact responsible for the missionary enterprise. The distinction which had been and sometimes even now is drawn between Foreign and Domestic Missions was expressly denied by Bishop Doane, because the field is the world.

It all sounds very modern, doesn't it? That is because even today we are talking his language and thinking his thoughts, but in his day it was a new note and a startling one.

Who can tell how men and causes interact, great men—great events. The life of the Church so wonderfully enriched by his life, its work so enlarged by his work, owes a debt to him which he himself would probably say, if he could speak to us today, was altogether his debt to Her life and Her grace. In any case, he was there when the opportunity came. He saw the Vision, and made others see it. He heard the call, and proclaimed it.

In the field of Education he was a pathfinder as he was in the cause of Missions.

S. Mary's Hall here in Burlington is his living monument. Among the first, if not the first Church School for girls in the land, established in 1837, when Bishop Doane had been Bishop only five years, it stands today strong and vital, as it has for close to a century, for the ideals he cherished as primary and fundamental, namely, the necessity for Christian education, and the training of women in the atmosphere of our religion, for leadership in a Christian community.

On Founder's Day, which is Bishop Doane's birthday, May 27th, at S. Mary's Hall we have each year a simple ceremony which is full of tender and reverent memory. This is the crowning of the founder's portrait with a wreath of flowers. Two of the girls are each year chosen for the high honour of placing this floral crown about the frame of Bishop Doane's portrait hanging in the school room. The flowers are pansies, for kind and lovely thoughts, sweet memories, and fragrant faith.

Burlington College, founded some years later than S. Mary's Hall, was his attempt to accomplish for young men the same task. It failed financially, and Doane himself passed through deep waters on account of his overwhelming obligations. It gave an opportunity for an attack upon him, the real basis of which, however, was his Churchmanship.

In an era of controversial bitterness, almost as deadly to spiritual life as our modern attitude of indifference and tolerance of the intolerable, Doane was a shining mark for those to whom the Oxford movement and the Catholic revival in the Anglican communion seemed like the machinations of the Devil himself. That there was a simultaneous revival of life and zeal and effective good works along with this spiritual revival seems to have escaped the observation of contemporary critics, just as it seems to be forgotten today that a general spiritual indifference has produced an almost universal moral degeneration.

Doane suffered because he was a Tractarian, the outstanding spokesman in the America of his day for the Oxford Movement, and a frank and fearless advocate of the Catholic heritage of the Church, as unchanging and unalterable principles of the Church's life.

This whole place seems saturated with his memory. Riverside, the lovely and dignified mansion which he built on the river bank, with its "curtilage" or park around it, a noble Episcopal residence adjoining S. Mary's Hall; this splendid Church with its exquisite spire and chimes; the old Church with all its memories; and his grave and monument here in the Churchyard. His calm spirit seems to dwell here always. We still see his wonderful face, alight with hope and courage; we still love to sing his hymns. It is not strange that he should be a poet. I feel that this added gift simply completes the picture of this great minister of grace.

I find a parallel between those familiar hymns of his and the great motive forces of his life. The Missionary motive:

"Fling out the banner! let it float
Skyward and seaward high and wide."

The Educational motive, shot through with the necessity for religious expression:

"Thou art the Way, to Thee alone
From sin and death we flee.
And he who would the Father seek
Must seek Him Lord by Thee."

The motive of Faith, devotion, worship, and personal discipleship to the end of life:

"Softly now the light of day
Fades upon my sight away;
Free from care, from labour free,
Lord, I would commune with thee."

Like most leaders, he was far ahead of the rank and file. He was a Teacher, and only the intelligent are willing to learn, or eager for light, or able to see it, and understand, and the intelligent are usually a minority.

In these happy days when universal suffrage has automatically brought universal enlightenment, when there are no real problems, social or political, which cannot be quite satisfactorily settled, if not solved, by a general election; when we are content in New York or New Jersey, to give leadership to the loud speaker, and when the only tax which remains unlevied is a tax on our intelligence; in these days we have as far to go to reach the standard and measure of the stature of Jesus Christ as that long and weary way must have appeared to Doane in 1832.

Little faith and less zeal, and of knowledge and understanding, inadequate where it is right, misleading and dangerous where it is wrong. That was his battlefield, and ours.

Our task seems equally hard to me, without the great minds to meet it and the great hearts to face it. To measure up to the Christianity of Christ, and the unfading faith of the Church.

Doane pleaded for the public daily prayers of the Church. For frequent celebrations of the Holy Communion. For full and adequate preparation for confirmation. For Christian homes and family life.

Out of the welter of modern life, shattered, maimed, and broken by easy divorce and a provocative sexualism in which, God help us, girls and women are leaders, and boys and men only too willingly and eagerly follow to the hunt: with a flood of magazines and books frankly pornographic, holding up a mirror in which posterity can behold our spiritual and moral nakedness, and blush for us who seem to have lost all sense of shame, out of all this can we look up and see the Cross as Doane saw it and as Christians have always seen it, stark and uncompromising, but yet comprehending, severe and just in its condemnation of all this evil, and yet loving, yearning, pleading, drawing, with an endless and immeasurable attraction?

We need some pathfinder today, a prophetic teacher, a zealous missionary of the Cross, a forceful protagonist of the spiritual life, around whom we may gather the real faith and the moral forces of our modern life to fight, the old fight, the good fight, the never-ending fight against the world and the flesh and the Devil, in a world of graft and racketeers, gunmen and speakeasies; of plausible politicians, whose public professions of personal purity gull the gullible, and whose private, cynical disregard of any real moral sanctions build up the great political machines whose workings have sapped the manhood of America.

George Washington Doane, Doctor and Bishop, son and citizen of New Jersey, whose name is written in our Hall of Fame, of whose life and career we are justly proud, whose memory we honour in this Commemoration Service on the hundredth anniversary of his consecration, was a teacher of prophetic power, a missionary of apostolic faith and zeal, and a saintly soul whose burning faith in his Christian calling in the Church of God shines from his face today in all his portraits.

We miss the mark of this commemoration quite completely if it remains in our memory as an interesting bit of history. It is, of course, almost as important to have a good ancestry as it is vital to have some progenitor, but our posterity is the more important part of us, for we have some chance of influencing that. A blueblooded ancestry is an important asset, but redblooded posterity is even more desirable.

And so the greatest of all Americans said at Gettysburg in the greatest of all orations in the English speech: "We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate this place. Those who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have thus far so nobly advanced. It is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us,— that we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion."

And so it is not admiration, but inspiration, and emulation, and imitation, which this occasion calls for.

It is for us to fast and pray, in an age and among a people which denies itself in no manner, which regards it as unnatural and repellent to refuse the gratification of any appetite. In a day when men have more reliance on their own powers and their own skill, their own inventions and discoveries, than ever before in the long history of our race, which has been so largely a worm's eye view of the universe in which man finds himself: In this day in which the S-O-S has pulsed out across the wastes of water for the first time: In this day of self-indulgent ease, and self-confident success: In this day when we fear pain and do not fear God, it is for us to fast and pray as Christ did, as Christ commanded, as the Church commands, and as the Church has always done.

I am out of sympathy with great public services in which the people are told not to come to the Lord's Table, so that the service may not be unduly prolonged and that it is expected that only the Bishops who are present and the other officiants should receive the Sacrament.

If it were to promote the custom of fasting communion, which is apostolic, historic, Catholic, and Canonical, the ancient common law of the whole Church, it might have a word in its defense, but it hasn't even that excuse. The Bishops and other officiants so participating are not fasting, and we know it! And it is far better that our people should be taught to come to the Altar of God than that we should have the service shortened, in order to give more time for the music or the sermon.

What our people need is teaching, not preaching, and what their souls lack is not music rendered by a choir, but worship offered by their hearts.

This cannot be done except in the one way which is of Christ's making. The Radio and the Automobile, the Movies, Tennis, Golf, and Bridge, are modern substitutes for religion. They are not even imitations, which lack the peculiar properties of the original. They are substitutes, and a man who gives his soul for a substitute is in the evil case of the householder who apostrophized his soul, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, eat, drink, and be merry."

And he could not feel that his soul was dead, nor know that it would be required of him that night.

To live sanely, to be diffusers of life, to be torch-bearers, while we may, and pass on the torch to other hands; not to live for ourselves but for others; to try to have our share in winning the world for Christ; to march in the ranks of an advancing host, carrying the Cross and the Cause of Christ into fields at home and abroad where other powers are dominant; this is the task, evangelical and missionary, educational and social, that constitutes the Christian religion.

We have a long hard road to go ere we enter in through the gates into the City where justice, mercy and truth, where love and brotherhood prevail, whose streets are paved with gold and whose walls are encrusted with gems, because there such treasures are fit only for paving stones.

I stood without the City gates
Built high with jasper shining;
Twelve lines of precious gems beneath
Twelve saintly names enshrining.

Four square it lies from East to West
Each side three gates inviting;
Each gate a pearl, and Angels there
On each a name are writing.

Within, the streets are paved with gold,
And as I gazed in wonder,
I heard the voice of Calvary
That silenced Sinai's thunder.

"Behold! the New Jerusalem
Where holy gifts are treasured;
Not earthly gems or lust-wrought gold,
But Truth and Love unmeasured.

Earth's riches wrought in gates and walls,
Trod underfoot, neglected;
But blazing in God's diadem
The Jewels men rejected."

In this world human hearts and human hopes are trodden underfoot by the trampling feet of a greedy mob of self-centered egoists eager for nothing but ease and pleasure, but when I say "in this world", I do not mean that nothing can be righted until after we are dead. God grant us the sanity to see and the courage and patience to procure a better world within this present human life, in which the powers of the world to come are felt and seen and recognized.

To be remembered vividly, after the lapse of a century, that is a tribute to a strong man. To be remembered gratefully for the distinct and unique contribution which he made to the progress and life of the Church, that is the testimony borne to a great leader. To be remembered with love and tenderness for the spiritual beauty of his character, that is the crown of laurel on the tomb of a great soul. Upon his breast a cross with palms, and upon his serene and beautiful face a light from heaven.

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