Project Canterbury











June 2nd, 1885,








The palace is not for man, but for the Lord God.--I. CHRONICLES, xxix., 7.

IT was a happy ordering that, in the series of services of which this is only one, this service of consecration should be preceded by another. Already the tribes of this Israel of Long Island have come up to this holy and beautiful house and have compassed these strong and stately walls "with solemn pomp." Already those mutual felicitations which belong to the completion of so noble and memorable work have, here, been freely exchanged. Already, too, those suggestive historic reminiscences, which must needs connect themselves with such a structure reared upon such a site, have been rehearsed here in words whose affluent eloquence I may not venture to emulate. A master hand has sketched for those who have been assembled here the memories of the past and the vision of a nobler future. A humbler duty remains to him who, summoned to take the place of another and more fit, and coming late and hurriedly to his task, may at least console himself with the reflection that those words of thanksgiving to God and gratitude for the munificence of His servant appropriate to this work have already been most fitly spoken, and that those lessons of paternal wisdom which, alone, the father of his flock may inculcate, have already been worthily urged.

But, on such an occasion as this, there is still something that remains to be said, and I am free to [3/4] own that I am not sorry to be bidden here to say it. For it is impossible to come here for this service without being sensible, that to many minds in our generation, and especially in this our own land, both the service itself and the structure which is the occasion for it, are equally an extravagance and an anachronism. We look back from our higher civilization to other and earlier ages which reared such buildings as this, and remember how much these ages lacked. The age of the great cathedrals, we are wont to say, was, if you choose, an age of great devotion, but it was also an age of great and widespread ignorance. The spirit that built Durham and Milan, Canterbury and Seville, Lincoln and Rouen, was an age certainly of splendid gifts and of matchless labors, but it was also an age of superstition even among the most learned, and of semi-barbarism among the common people. We may cordially admire the enthusiasm of those earlier days, and the stately structures through which it found expression. But it is quite consistent with such admiration that we should recognize that since then fresh light has dawned upon the world, and that a larger wisdom waits to guard our hearts and gifts to-day.

I. There are, we are told, new problems that confront us in America, at this hour, and the building of cathedrals will not help to solve them. There are new tasks waiting for the Church of God in this land, and stately and splendid ecclesiastical architecture is not the agency to achieve them. "This is a practical age, and its evils await a direct and practical solution. We want the college; we want the hospital; we want the reformatory; we want the creche and the orphanage, the trades-school and the trained nurse, the hygienic lecturer and [4/5] the free library, the school of arts and the refuge for the aged, but we do not want the cathedral."

Yes, dear brethren, we want all these things, and a great many others, for which they stand. But I venture to submit that we want a great deal more than we want any or all of them, the spirit that inspires and originates them. And if at this point we are told that that spirit is abroad in the world, and that it is that regenerating force which is known as the "enthusiasm of humanity;" the altruism of the positive philosophy, then I commend to any candid mind a recent controversy between two eminent Englishmen, neither of whom believes in God, I mean Mr. Frederick Harrison and Mr. Herbert Spencer, and one of whom has perhaps exercised as much influence over the thinking of his generation as any single man now living. It was certainly not because of any enthusiasm for Christianity that Mr. Spencer lately dealt such crushing blows at the religion of the Positive Philosophy. It was certainly not because to his own vision the religion of the New Testament appealed with such resistless spell that one of the ablest minds that has challenged the attention of men, whether in our own or any other age, has confessed lately with such pathetic candor that the enthusiasm of humanity was insufficient for the tasks to which it has set itself; and his testimony at this point is therefore all the more instructive. We may disparage Christianity as we will, but the helpful and humane activities of Christendom are explicable by no other key. It is because, behind all that men are doing, whether in this or any other land, to lift men up, there is, whether consciously or unconsciously, the spell of those mighty truths which are incarnated in [5/6] the person of Jesus Christ--the truth of God's fatherhood and of man's redemption; of God's love and of man's need; of God's judgment and of man's accountability, that men have suffered, and wrought and taught--have given of their substance and have consecrated their lives to make this old world a fairer home for man, and to soften and dispel its griefs. Go where you will, ask whom you please, and the answer must needs be the same. The hands that have reached down to snatch the perishing from the jaws of death and give them back to life again have been Christian hands. The feet that have run swiftest and soonest on all helpful and healing errand; have been Christian feet. The eyes that have seen the deepest into all our sore and perplexing social problems have been Christian eyes, and the lips that have spoken the most quickening and consoling words, when all other lips were dumb, have been those of Christian men and Christian women.

All around us in the two cities which make one mighty camp of tireless and heroic toilers on the side of charity and humanity, there are those palaces of mercy and of refuge which have already made of our American philanthropy the wonder of the world. Who reared them, and who sustain them? Take out of their supporting constituency the men and women who believe in God and in His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, and they would ere long crumble to the ground. Neither the enthusiasm of humanity, nor ethical culture, nor an enlightened selfishness, nor any other of those panaceas which are offered for our acceptance in exchange for the faith of the Crucified would sustain them for a single generation.

[7] But whence did they who have been moved by that faith derive it? Did they evolve it from their own consciousness? Did they dream it in their comfortable leisure? or did they learn it from the Church of God and in the house of God? What oracle has taught men the wisdom to devise, and the love to toil, and the unselfishness to spend, unless it be those lively oracles of which the Church is at once the keeper and the dispenser? Say that men have come to own the great fact of the brotherhood of humanity, where in all the world have they been taught that fact so eloquently as when, kneeling round the same altar, prince and peasant side by side, they have sat at one table and eaten of one bread and drank of one cup? Ah! how the majesty of some mighty temple, august and solemn and still, has taught man the greatness of God and the littleness and weakness of His creature! And where, in all the world, but in some grand and beautiful cathedral, have men seen the splendor of things unseen mirrored so majestically and persuasively in things seen? The cathedral an anachronism! And yet what voices have rung through its vaulted aisles since Savonerola thundered in the Duomo at Florence and Lacordaire thrilled all France from the pulpit of Notre Dame, even as Liddon thrills all England from the pulpit of St. Paul's to-day!

What voices of warning and rebuke, what messages of hope and pardon, have been heard within cathedral walls, and what tired feet and aching hearts, taking the wings of a dove, have climbed up there upon the stairway of celestial song, and communing with God, their Father, have been quickened, and renewed, and comforted. I do not say that these things have not come to pass in other [7/8] sanctuaries humbler and less costly than a cathedral, but I do say that this is the office of the sanctuary in our human life, and I maintain that that structure which stands for influences so potent and so supreme cannot be too stately, too spacious or imperial, and most surely cannot be an anachronism in any age or in any land. It is a King's House, nay, the House of the King of Kings; it is the visible home and symbol of all those forces that are mightiest in history and most indispensable in our civilization. Shame on us if we belittle its object or begrudge its splendor. Shall we dwell in ceiled houses, decked with cedar and vermilion, and shall the ark of the Lord dwell in a tent? Shall our princes and nobles, our successful men, our hoarders of capital and our accumulators of vast fortunes rear their stately and regal palaces; and shall they and we disparage the building of a palace statelier still, in which to worship God? Again I say, shame on us if we do so!

II. But once more: It may be objected that such a structure as this is an anachronism, because it undertakes to lift what may be called the institutionalism of Religion into undue and overshadowing prominence. Granted, it is said, that we want Christian worship, and that we want to give to God our best in offering it, the parish is the true norm of organization, and the parish church the true home, whether of Christian worship or of ministerial teaching. But this is not a parish church; it is a Bishop's church, and as such it is a dangerous illustration of the centralization of power. May we not well be afraid that the Cathedral will overshadow the parish, and that the power of the one will be the weakness of the other? Let me say here, that if there were such a danger we might well be afraid of it. The [8/9] parochial system, whatever may be its defects, and I am not insensible to them, has abundantly demonstrated its adaptedness to the land in which we live and the elements among which we of the clergy are called to work. But one finds it hard to refrain from a smile when he hears the cathedral and the cathedral system spoken of as preparing the way for the undue aggrandizement of the Episcopate. Do those who utter such a warning know how much, or rather how little, power an English Bishop has, ordinarily, within the precincts of an English cathedral? And if it be urged that those ancient foundations, with their deans and chapters and the rest, limiting the authority of the Diocesan at every turn, cannot be taken as the guarantees of equal safeguards in cathedral foundations of a later date, the answer is simply: Why not? Is the spirit that spoke at Runnymede in Magna Charta, in the ancient charters of York, and Chester, and Exeter, extinct among us to-day? Is a cathedral foundation anything else than the creation of a Diocesan Convention, with its clerical and lay representation, its trained priests and doctors and lawyers, its clear-headed men of business, no one of them too eager to vote power even into the most tried and trusted Episcopal hands?

On the other hand, the Cathedral is a witness to the true catholicity of the Church such as simply cannot possibly exist under any other practicable conditions. As I have said, I prize what is known as the parochial system and respect it heartily. But it cannot be denied that one tendency of a parochial system, however effectively it may be worked, is in the direction of narrowness and fragmentariness and one-sidedness. The Church in the [9/10] order and variety of her services, and especially in the rhythmic sequence of her ecclesiastical year, does much to preserve what we have been taught to value as the proportion of faith. But who of us does not know that with the best and purest intentions the disposition of any single mind is apt to be to emphasize unduly certain aspects of the Faith, and unduly to neglect or disesteem others? Who does not know, in a word, how easy it is to fall in love with our own pet views and to set them above all others? We are fond of ridiculing, good-naturedly, that custom among Christians of other names which speaks of a place of worship as "Mr. A.'s" or "Dr. B.'s church." But how is this different from or worse than that other usage which confounds the Catholic faith with Mr. C.'s or Dr. D.'s weekly expositions of it, and which, loudly proclaiming the ancient canon--in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas--nevertheless practically declares that there are no questions which are in dubiis, if one's own pet preacher has made up and proclaimed his mind about such doubtful questions, which henceforth become, forsooth, no longer open questions, but necessary dogmas, of all men, everywhere to be believed? For one I am profoundly persuaded that if a cathedral had no other vocation, it would have a very noble and entirely adequate raison d'etre in that it offers one pulpit, at least, in every diocese where the best and ablest teachers, carefully and wisely chosen, may present those various aspects of the Christian faith, whose diverse statements, when once they are frankly and courageously presented, will most effectually prepare men to discern that fundamental consensus as to things divinely revealed, on [10/11] which they all alike rest. Such a pulpit will be a perpetual protest against "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men," and in its exceptional freedom from cramping and irksome shibboleths will be a very fortress of freedom for the truth as it is in Jesus. And in sketching such a pulpit I am happy in the consciousness that I am dreaming no fair but impossible dream of my own, but indicating its settled policy as it has been already determined upon by him who has been called in the good providence of God to be its organizing and executive head. The example of this day demonstrates that even they who may have made themselves to be widely regarded as objects of suspicion will not be unwelcome in this cathedral pulpit, and that here, at any rate, there shall be witnessed that essential unity, along with apparent diversity, which is the true glory of that Church which began in the diversities as well as the agreements of a Peter and a Paul, a James and a John, and which held and prized them all because underneath them was Another who is the Chief Corner-stone, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever!

III. But yet again, and finally: It may still be objected that while, theoretically, there may be force in the considerations already urged, a cathedral in America is still an anachronism, because it is so essentially alien to our national ideas and our democratic principles. These lie, we are told, at the very foundations of our common Christianity. But the cathedral is a piece of that exaggerated ecclesiasticism, which in the old world made of bishops and church dignitaries princes and barons, and which forgot in its lust of grandeur the needs of the common people.

[12] "The needs of the common people." It is a phrase which, as things exist among us to-day, and especially in this land, may well make us pause and think. And as we repeat it, we may well ask ourselves the question sometimes, how far the Church of our affections is seeking, first, to find out the needs of the common people--and then, to meet them? Within these limits I may not undertake to consider that question in its broader aspects, but this I do undertake to say, that that Church can hardly be said to be meeting very effectually the needs of the common people which treats them practically as a pariah caste, to be relegated in her statelier sanctuaries to the back seats, and to be made to feel in the Lord's House that they are not honestly welcome. I undertake to say that one need of the common people is to have, somewhere, somehow, some substantial evidence that the Church which reads in her services the Epistle General of St. James, believes it, too, and that when she declares with St. Peter that what God hath cleansed, that we are not to call unclean, she believes that, too. Nay, more, I venture to affirm that if the same Apostle said to Simon Magus: "Thy money perish with thee," when that thrifty capitalist proposed to buy into the Church of God, as men buy into it who buy a pew to-day, we who claim to be of the Apostolic succession in our ecclesiastical faith and order, may well remember that that temple best meets the needs of the common people which is free and open to all corners, of whatever rank or caste or condition. Observe, I am not now holding any man living responsible for that system of buying and selling so many square feet in God's House, which no man living created, and from which I am disposed [12/13] to believe few men living would not gladly be free, but I do maintain that if anything which relates to the practical working of the Church in this age is an anachronism, such a system as I have referred to is, in this nineteenth century of the religion of the Galilean peasant, Jesus Christ, of all other anachronisms the most gigantic!

Turn from it for a moment to another spectacle which, in our mother Church of England, is one of the most suggestive to be witnessed in modern times. Has any one within the sound of my voice to-day been present at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, or at Chester, or Worcester, or Ely, or Durham, or in Westminster Abbey at a people's service? Are there any such vast and attentive congregations, is there any more vigorous and masculine preaching, anywhere else in Christendom? Do we know of the wonderful revival of life and energy in the English Church, and of the spiritual quickening and awakening of the English people? I would not belittle one of the manifold agencies and influences by which that awakening has been wrought, but I declare here my profound conviction that no one thing in this generation has done more to rehabilitate the Church of England in the affections of the people of England than the free services of her great cathedrals, and chief among them all, the services in her metropolitan cathedral, which, welcoming every corner, absolutely without distinction, and giving to him constantly and freely her very best, has made men feel and own that she is indeed, as she claims to be, the Church of the common people. Depend upon it, we cannot afford to ignore the significance of her example. When once we have lifted our fairest and [13/14] costliest to the skies, and then have flung its doors wide open to the world, the world will understand that what we say of brotherhood in Christ we mean.

And so let us be glad and thankful that this stately and beautiful temple has been builded here--yes, here, and not anywhere else. The wise and far-sighted founder of this fair city in the fields might easily, had he taken counsel of that utilitarian spirit which rules the age, have dedicated this site to another and very different use. He might have built a factory (the last letter from his hand which ever reached me was one giving me access to the famous silk factories of Lyons), or he might have reared here a hospital or an inn, or a music-hall. And if he had, and if he had spent millions upon some such undertaking and blazoned it all over with his own name, who does not know how the air would have rung with his praises as a wise, shrewd, hard-headed, practical, common-sense man? But he set about instead to rear a House of God; and other hands, bound to him by the closest and most sacred ties, have taken up his work and carried it on to its noble completion, not to glorify any earthly name, but to the glory and honor of the Incarnate Christ. And thus the palace has been builded not for man, but for the Lord God. No human creature, however worthy, will have homage here, but only God. And to-day we come to ask Him to take this house and keep it as His own forever.

But in doing so we may not forget to honor that wise foresight, that true discernment which did not choose to erect here a factory or hospital or a music-hall, but this holy house instead. Says one of the most penetrating thinkers of our generation: What [14/15] are the remains which you can study in the land of the Caesars and the Ptolemies? The buildings devoted to the convenience of the body are for the most part gone, while those that represent ideas of the mind are standing yet. The provisions for shelter, the places of traffic, the treasuries of wealth have crumbled into the dust with the generations that built and filled them. But the temple, answering to the sense of the Infinite and Holy, the rockhewn sepulchre where love and mystery blended into a twilight of sunrise; these survive the shock of centuries and testify that religion and love and honor for the good are inextinguishable."

Yes; and more than this. For such a building as this proclaims to all the world that underneath the prosperity of any community that lives there must be a steadfast faith in the unseen and a steadfast faith in Him who has revealed the unseen to us. It is on this faith that every nation that has endured has first of all been builded. It is in this faith that those peasants of Galilee, whom their Master sent to preach His Gospel to a scornful and unbelieving generation, went forth and conquered the world!

And if it be said they went without purse or scrip, and that they reared no costly temples--if, in other words, I am reminded of what is called the simplicity "of the early Church--of the upper chamber in Jerusalem, or the unadorned proseuché that sufficed for Apostolic disciples; I answer I do not forget them. But neither may any one of us forget that such was the best they had. No more is asked from us, but less than this no true devotion has ever given. In ages and among Christian people where the sanctuary has been bare (as in the case of our own [15/16] land and our forefathers), so, too, has been the private house. But it is ever a fatal sign of art decaying into luxury, and religion into contempt, when men permit the house of God to be meaner than their own, and when they allow to their domestic pleasure what they refuse to the worship of the Maker and Giver of all."

It is because this holy and beautiful house is the most effectual protest against such a tendency--a tendency to which no thinking man who knows anything of the scale of expenditure for the splendor and luxury of living in our great cities can be insensible--that we may well hail this day and this gift of God with deep and intelligent rejoicing. The Church in our land of whatever communion and fellowship waits yet to see a gift which can at all compare with it, and while we are here to-day chiefly to consecrate this Cathedral we may not forget that this Sanctuary of Religion is but a part of a larger whole--a whole whose several parts, so wisely planned and nobly executed, demands our unstinted admiration and gratitude. They well called in the elder days any considerable gift for religious or charitable purposes a foundation. The word is most descriptive here. For here have been laid foundations, broad and deep, for Christian worship, for Christian education, and for Christian and paternal oversight. No dreamer is needed here to see in this princely work, all centering in this beautiful cathedral, the promise of quickened diocesan life streaming forth from this gracious centre--a rallying-point and resting-place for all the clergy of the diocese--an elevated type and example of the Church's worship--a distributing centre of diocesan activities, and a home and seat for the guiding hand and head [16/17] whom God has called here as its Bishop. No dreamer is needed, I say, to see in this work such a promise, for already its seed is here, deep-sown with no mean or stinted hand. May God water that seed with His grace, and so make it to bear fruit abundantly!

It is in view of such considerations, brethren of the clergy and laity, that we congratulate those whose work and gift this is, and bless God that He put it into their hearts to make it. We remember with grateful appreciation that this princely benefaction comes to-day from her hand who lays it upon God's altar unfettered by halting conditions and unspoiled by unworthy reserve. And we remember, too, with equally cordial appreciation the wisdom and energy that have guided this work in its progress and brought it to its successful conclusion. "Forasmuch as it was in thine heart to build an house for My name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart." "Now, therefore, arise, O God, into Thy resting-place, Thou and the ark of Thy strength! Let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness, and let Thy saints sing with joyfulness."

My dear brother, and father, and friend; this congregation of your own people and of mine will surely indulge me in one word more, if I add to those other felicitations which especially belong to this day our loving congratulations to you. To few men is it given to see the end of so large and anxious a work as that which your eyes to-day behold, crowned with such ripe success. May God make this powerful instrument for His service rich and effectual for blessing in your wise and resolute hands! May He give to you and your flock rest and peace in this holy place, and make it a [17/18] benediction to all your sea-girt diocese. Here, like a rock above the waves, may it stand, to be a refuge and a beacon for many generations; and here, amid the ceaseless cares and trials--the often loneliness and sorrowfulness of your weighty office--may you find strength and calm within these holy courts, and the dove-like ministries of the Comforter! One at least of your brethren--nay, why do I say one only, when I am sure that I speak for all the rest--is glad that this happy day has come to you and that this noble gift has come with it. If I may speak for the mother who bore you and whose spires we may almost see from the spot on which we stand, New York is glad in the blessing that has come to Long Island--and may I not say it, too, a little proud that it has come to you from one of her own spiritual children. If you have reckoned us your debtors in the past, you will surely own that the debt is cancelled to-day, and that with no niggard hand. For if this is, after all, but the gift of one, behind it are the hearts of all! Truly the lines are fallen to you in pleasant places and you have a goodly heritage. But none too goodly is the shrine for that Eternal King whose glory we pray may henceforth and always fill it. As we look about us here to-day, those words of Wordsworth's spring unbidden to the lips:

Tax not the royal saint with vain expense,
With ill-matched aims the architect who planned,
Albeit, laboring for a scanty band
Of white-robed scholars only, this immense
And glorious work of fine intelligence.
Give all thou canst, high heaven rejects the lore
Of nicely calculated less or more.
So deemed the man who fashioned for the sense
These lofty arches, spread that branching roof,
Self-poised and scooped into ten thousand cells,
[19] Where light and shade repose; where music swells,
Lingering and wandering on, as loath to die;
Like thoughts whose very sweetness yieldeth proof
That they were born for immortality."

Fair is the house which art has reared amid this rural loveliness. May God's abiding presence make it fairer still. May weary souls, wakened out of their sleep of sin, learn to cry with Jacob, when he came to Beth-el, "This is none other but the house of God; this is the gate of heaven." And when the end shall come, then may the Lord rehearse it, when He writeth up the bede-roll of His saints, that many souls were ripened here for that more glorious house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens!

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