THE STANDING COMMITTEE OF THE DIOCESE OF MICHIGAN
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.--ACTS XIII: 2, 3.
THESE words, which are included in the Anglican Office for the Consecration of a Bishop, are omitted from our own. This fact alone, if there were no other evidence of a difference of opinion as to what that was which St. Luke here describes, would sufficiently indicate that the Church has not always been, as to its nature, of one and the same mind. The Ordinal of the Church of England would seem to imply that it was an Ordination, or Consecration. The judgment of scholars, who were Churchmen as well as scholars, has sometimes seemed to lean to that view of the transaction which makes of it simply a designation to a particular, and preeminently difficult and important, Missionary work.
It is not necessary for our purpose this morning to settle this controversy, nor is it greatly material. We are here for a definite business, and for that business we find in Holy Scripture, elsewhere, if not here, abundant warrant. We are here not only because we believe that Christ has planted a Divine Society in the world, but that He Himself has ordained the mode of its perpetuation. We are here because we believe that to all men "diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient authors it is," or, if it is not, it ought to be, evident, that "that Divine Society which we call the Church of God in the world is not a ghost or a specter, but a visible and recognizable reality;--that it has certain marks or notes," and that among these marks or [3/4] notes," no matter what its corruptions, or apostasies, or heresies, in this or that or the other age, is not only its Apostolic doctrine but its Apostolic fellowship. We are here because we believe that Apostolic fellowship to have meant no such invertebrate and acephalous thing as merely a community of sympathy and identity of ideas, but an organized brotherhood, with a rite of initiation, and a rite of association, and an appointed agency for the maintenance of its organic life and the due transmission of its authority.
Our brother here has been elected to a large and difficult task, and has been called by the voice of the Church in the Diocese to which he is presently to go, to take upon him the duties and burdens of the Episcopate. Under such circumstances, we can easily conceive that it would be appropriate that those from whom he is parting, and those among whom he is presently to be numbered, should give him their good wishes and God-speed. I am persuaded that no one of those to whom I speak this morning, that no one of those who are soon to be his brethren in the office of the Episcopate, that no one, here or elsewhere, who knows and honors him for his winning and beautiful ministry, would dream of withholding either.
But is this all that the Church has to give him, or all that the requirements of this occasion demand? Most surely you will not say so. Most surely you will agree with me that we have come here this morning because we are persuaded that "no man may take this honor upon himself but only as he is called of God as was Aaron," and that that Divine call is to find its evidence not alone in the election of a convention, or in any inward conviction, but equally and always by the transmission of an authority, having Scriptural and Apostolic warrant, and conferred by Apostolic commission. Amid systems as various and, alas, as mutually contradictory as the dissensions from which they have arisen, we who are here are constrained to see in the story of the infant life of the Church of God the unmistakable evidence that authority to exercise the ministry, of [4/5] whatever rank or degree, comes not from below but from above, and that, as from the first, it was handed down from Christ and then from His Apostles, and not up from the people, or across from equals, so it has been, or ought to have been, ever since.
In one word, men and brethren, we are here because we believe in the Historic Episcopate, not merely as an historic fact but as an historic necessity,--the historic sequence of a Divine purpose and plan, various in its transient and temporary accidents, if you choose, but moving steadily, and that not by the shaping of circumstances, but by the guiding of the Holy Ghost, toward that form and character which, having once taken on, it has now retained, whatever temporary obscuration of its primitive character or degradation of its high purpose may have befallen it, for well-nigh twenty centuries.
And therefore we are here to disown the theory that the organic form of Christianity, as the Catholic Church holds it and has perpetuated it, is merely the development and outcome of civil and secular institutions, amid which it originally found itself, any more than the Atonement on Calvary was the outcome of the Platonic or Aristotelian philosophies. Points of resemblance, points of contact, points of identity, even, we may own, here and there, it may be, in the one as in the others, but we are here to-day, if I at all understand the purpose of our coming, to affirm that yonder volume does not more truly declare to us the means of our salvation than it declares and defines that one preeminent agency, the Church of the living God, with its inspired message and its divinely instituted sacraments, and divinely appointed threefold ministry, as the visible agency and instrument by which that salvation is to be made known to men.
And here, at any rate, whatever may be proper elsewhere, we are not called upon to go beyond this. How truly a human body may be so designated which is more or less maimed or mutilated, is a question which theology may not find it easier to answer in one domain [5/6] than science in another. But in an age when there is so much invertebrate belief, and when the tone of mutual complacency is so great that one man's deliro (I dream) is as good as another man's credo (I believe), it is as well in connection with such an occasion as this to understand the ground upon which we stand, and the point from which we set out. The cause of the reunion of Christendom will be greatly forwarded by the kindly temper which strives to understand, and scorns to misrepresent others; but it will not be helped by the mistaken amiability which seeks to misinterpret or consents to misrepresent ourselves.
I have said this much, and have endeavored to say it with utmost plainness, because, unless I am mistaken, the exigency of the hour demands it. But I have done so mainly because it opens the way to that larger view of our text and of this occasion to which, if possible, we should ascend.
(a.) For, first of all, and plainly enough, it belongs to us to remember on such an occasion as this that there is a past, and that we cannot divorce ourselves from it. Interesting and impressive as even the coldest criticism would be apt to own the Service in which we are now engaged, neither its impressiveness nor its intrinsic appropriateness is the reason for our observance of those solemn features which compose it. We did not originate, extemporize, or invent them. Their claim upon us, first of all, resides in this: that they are a part of that venerable and scriptural inheritance of which God has put us in trust. In an age which, with its smart sciolism, considers itself competent to invent a method for every emergency, and extemporize a function for every most august solemnity, it is enough for us that we are here engaged in doing what "our fathers did aforetime." That law of historic continuity which Christ in His earlier ministry so consistently and invariably emphasized, from the day when at His home in Nazareth He went into the Synagogue on the Sabbath day [St. Luke iv: 16.] to those closing hours when, on the eve [6/7] of His crucifixion He made ready to keep the Passover with His disciples, [St. Mark xiv: 14.] is still the Church's truest wisdom, as it is daily coming to be more and more plainly to be seen to be an essential element of her inmost strength. The evolution of the Church, like the evolution of the highest forms of physical and intellectual life, must forever be along those lines which keep her present in close and vascular connection with her past. No more tragic lesson has been taught to Christendom than that which salutes us, in this land and age in the manifold and mutually destructive divisions of that Christendom, as to the folly and madness of the defiance of that law. We are set, in a generation of ignorant and audacious departures from primitive faith and practice, to say, and to say it over and over again, "the old is better." We are set to affirm that, howsoever it may have been caricatured, overstated, or misunderstood, there is a doctrine of Apostolic succession in teaching, in Ministry, in fellowship, and that we are to guard it and perpetuate it. Preeminent as are the truths of Christ's personal relation to the personal soul, we may not forget that He has chosen to reveal and proclaim them through an agency which binds those souls to one another and to Him in the great as well as "good estate of the Catholic Church." And this it is our bounden duty to remember and to affirm, not less but more, because it is to many an unwelcome and unnecessary affirmation, and one that, only late and slowly, men are coming to own and accept.
(b.) But when we have done this duty, we are not to leave the other duty undone. And what is the other duty, if it be not to remember that as there is a past, and that we must not get out of touch with that, so there is a present, and that we must be careful to get into touch with that? The fact of all others most inspiring in our land and day is this, that never before was the Church, whose children we are, so earnestly at work to understand the situation in the midst of which [7/8] she finds herself, and so strenuous by any and every lawful means to adjust herself to its demands. An alien, as men perversely miscalled her, in the beginning, from the spirit of our. Republican institutions and the genius of the American people, she has not failed to show that she is loyal to the one, and that she understands the other. Not always nor everywhere wise in the manner or the methods of her original approach to those whom she has sought to win, she has consented to unlearn not a little of her earlier stiffness, and largely to disown a temper of aristocratic reserve and exclusiveness. As in England, so in America, she is no longer the Church of a class or a caste, but preeminently, at any rate in some of her chiefest centers, the Church of the people.
Let me not, however, be misunderstood. It is a conspicuous infirmity of the religious activities of our time, that in their desire to commend themselves to those whom they seek to influence, they have not always remembered that the last method of effectively doing so is one of excessive complaisance and weak and worldly concession. The architecture of ecclesiastical buildings and places of religious worship in our day, the tone, not unfrequently, of our pulpits, the characteristics of worship, the speech and manners of the clergy, have all revealed a danger lest in the aim to be human and fraternal, the Church and religion may very easily become secular and careless and worldly. In the statement of doctrine it is well, undoubtedly, that the parish priest should aim to translate the speech and the idioms of other days into our own; but there is sometimes heard in the pulpit a timid concession to popular clamor, or popular fancy, which, in its spirit, is of the very essence of instability and incertitude, and in its influence at once deteriorating and debilitating. "Stand fast" (sthkete), says the Apostle, "in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free," [Galatians v: I.] and it is worth while to consider whether the liberty with which a Christian minister is endowed is not the liberty [8/9] of constancy, rather than, in faith and ritual and manners, the liberty of mere vagrancy. In her efforts to adapt herself to all sorts and conditions of men, the Church may indeed well remember her Master's command to condescend to men of low estate. But she is to descend, to condescend, not that she may stay on some lower level of truth and reverence and order, but that, reaching down to lost and guilty men, she may lift them up to every higher ideal of goodness and nobleness and beauty. 1 hardly know how to say what I want to say without seeming in some degree to disparage efforts and enterprises with which, in their aim, I have the heartiest sympathy; and earnest men, for whose earnest purpose I have the heartiest respect; but as there are methods and agencies which are used in our day by Christian people which throng streets and public halls with some jesting rabble following a brass band, and men and women tawdrily or grotesquely clad, to be the sport of lookers-on, so the Church is in danger, I sometimes fear, of a zeal to attract, rather than to edify, and to present herself as pretty and picturesque, rather than august, grave, and inspiring. Doubtless there are "many men and many minds," and the Catholic Church must be as universal in her methods and agencies as she claims to be in her mission and character. But methods, after all, are only secondary to that loving and self-forgetting spirit which using, as surely we may well remember in this venerable sanctuary, not yet spoiled by the iconoclastic spirit of a modernism which would leave nothing venerable unchanged,--which using, I say, only older and welltried methods, has, nevertheless, wrought in all ages of the Church's history the mightiest miracles of love and healing.
Ours is indeed a new era, and we may not put the new wine into old bottles,--we may not, in other words, always insist upon forcing this or that particular movement into superannuated and outworn forms of activity or expression. But, in one sense, and that the deepest, the problems of our generation are not new but old,--as [9/10] old as sin and selfishness, as old as human waywardness and depravity and guilt. And, whether it be the frictions and mutual enmities of those in different walks of life, or the misery and shame that are the consequence of a disregard of the laws of God, what we want is not so much a new departure in methods as a new baptism of the old, and yet ever-renewing, Spirit. And so, the power which is to keep the Church, its episcopate, its clergy, its people, in touch with the present is the power of that divine sympathy and self-abnegation which shone, above all other graces, in the person and work of Jesus Christ. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." Ah! it was not for nothing, we may be sure, that just that precise form of commission and empowering was ordained for the observance of the infant Church of God, and those who should bear rule in it, for all ages. Those pierced hands, which were nailed for our advantage to the bitter cross," and which, as Jean Paul wrote, "have turned the gates of centuries on their hinges,"--what unceasing translation of the heart of God was wrought by their never-resting touch, of healing and of life-giving power, all the way from the blessing of little children, the opening of blind eyes, cleansing of leprous bodies, the raising of the dead,--till they were outstretched in benediction above adoring disciple, as He, whose they were, was parted from His flock, and a cloud received Him out of their sight!" Most happy, verily, is that appointment of this day, the feast of St. Luke the beloved physician, for a service which binds that laying on of hands to which soon we shall proceed with the healing and healthful work of Christ's first Apostles. We may preach, and teach, and admonish, and exhort as we please,--but until somehow we are turning words into work, and entreaty into helpful and outreaching service, we shall preach in vain. That declamatory and reactionary instinct in human nature which, in the presence of moral and social evils, spends itself in vehemence of denunciations and revolutionary proclamations of warfare upon all existing [10/11] social order, is simply a bald impertinence until it is supplemented by some effort to lighten the burdens and re-adjust the inequalities which, ofttimes, the noisiest reformers "will not so much as touch with one of their fingers." The intellectual discontent, the impatience of creeds and symbols, the disposition to challenge the stern and righteous teachings of God's Holy Word, the agrarianism of the proletariat, and the savage animosity of anarchical teachers and their disciples, these come, as often as otherwise, from a frigid and distant temper in those who stand over against them, a temper which is too indolent and too selfish to make the Catholic faith a living reality to men by the swift and loving eagerness with which it is not only taught but lived.
And all this touches the office and ministry which we are to-day to commit to this our brother-elect, in a very close and living way. The office of ruling and guidance and oversight to which he is now to be set apart, can never be separated from that other of ordaining and confirming, in which he is to be the channel, under God's blessing, of those divine and enabling gifts which are for the strengthening of souls, and so, for the healing of the nations. In other words, his work of oversight, of Episcopizing, can never be separated from that other work which keeps him ever, in a most real and literal way, in touch with, close to, and not aloof from, the flock which he is to feed and guide. At this point, there recur to me some words which are, surely, on this day and in connection with this service, of preeminent pathos and appropriateness. In the volume entitled "The Dignity of Man," published after his death by his daughter, the late Bishop of Michigan, in this precise connection, speaks at length on this point:
It is perfectly obvious that when Jesus, in St. John's Gospel, described Himself as the Shepherd who entereth in by the door, He was not discussing the question of the credentials of authority, or of the formal commission of shepherdhood; but was pointing out the only way in which shepherdhood of any kind can discharge its function. and realize its power. He was [11/12] propounding a lesson which it behooves all men to ponder well who hope to influence their fellow-men for good. Rank, office, order, culture, property,--be the authority, the privilege, the right of these what they may, the eternal law of God, as exemplified in the life of His Son, and taught in His Holy Word, and illustrated in human history, is this: that none of these, no matter how commissioned or sent, can exercise any real shepherdhood over men except as they are in sympathy with them. This is true in Church and State: of the employers of labor; of the heads of households; of civil rulers and political leaders; of bishops, priests and deacons,--the power to lead men lies in sympathizing with them and walking in the same way with them. "He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep." Saying this, the great Master spoke not merely as a moralist and sage, but also as a statesman. He propounded a new principle in social and political economy which princes and diplomatists have hardly yet grown up to the grandeur of, though the vicissitudes of falling thrones and changing dynasties have been confirming it for thousands of years. For man has always been prone to think that eminence of gifts or station would give him power; that pomp, or wealth, or place, would enable him to exercise dominion. But Jesus utterly reversed all this when He said, "Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." Saying this He did not repudiate distinction of order, but rather pointed out the eternal purpose for which it is ordained. He did not renounce authority, but rather pointed out the only way to vindicate and exercise it. For He said in another place: "Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am." But because I am your Lord and Master, I am come among you as one that serveth. So here He taught the same great lesson. The man of influence is the man of sympathy; the man of power is the man of service. The shepherd enters in by the sheep's door; he leads them in and out and finds pasture for them. He knows them, and calls them by name. They know his voice, and will come when he calls them. He that walks with the sheep is the shepherd of the sheep.
You at any rate, my dear brother, will not misunderstand or blame if I recall these words to-day. There are some of us here this morning, who, like those Hebrews at the rebuilding of the Temple, cannot quite [12/13] part the joy of this happy and auspicious hour from tearful memories of one whose place you are fitly to fill, and whose noble episcopate, all too soon ended as it seems to us, you are to-day to take up. You, who knew and honored him, will not misconstrue us, if, seeking for a word most apt and fitting for this hour, we borrow his. And verily you need not. That single and blameless ministry, so unobtrusive, so untiring, so wise and tender and helpful, which for so many years you have exercised in this parish, is the best witness that, in taking up the larger and more difficult tasks which are before you, you do not now need to begin to learn to keep yourself in touch with the past, and also with the present. The cure and charge in which so long and faithfully you have labored, is one endeared to Churchmen, and not alone in this diocese but all over the land. The cure of White and Kemper, De Lancey and Odenheimer,--it is associated in the mind of him who is your preacher with one whose name he bears, and who, coming here now nearly seventy years ago to receive at the hands of William White both baptism and ordination, returned after many days to minister in this diocese as its Bishop, for nearly twenty years. It is thus that the consecrated memories of the past and the hallowed affections of the present assemble here to speak to you Salve, Vale, Hail! and Farewell! It is thus that the Church of other and feebler days joins in sending you forth to what was then untrodden ground, and now has grown to be one of her foremost and noblest dioceses. Believe me, that in going there you will have the welcome of warm and loyal hearts and the support of strong and generous hands. And believe me too, that in welcoming you to this office to-day, we who do so are glad and thankful that the Providence of God, wiser than our poor judgments, has seemed to disappoint us for a time, only to give us to-day, in the successor of that great Bishop of Michigan who went so lately to his rest, one who, in the judgment of the whole Church, is preeminently worthy to succeed him. The various training which as teacher, pastor and priest [13/14] you have had, will find no unworthy field in the diocese to which you go, and that earlier identity with studies preeminently identified with God's ancient people is one among many guarantees that you will both keep yourself in touch with a venerable and historic past as well as with a living and exacting present.
I know what ties you sever to-day, and I should sadly abuse my opportunity if I said one word, even though it might be of well-meant sympathy, to open that wound, and so make the parting harder and the wrench more bitter. You are called to-day to make an offering of yourself to God; and this your flock is called to give its best for Him, in giving you.
May God who has called you, as we are most certainly persuaded, strengthen you, and comfort them; and may the Master whom you hear to-day, bidding you go forth to take this yoke of higher ministry upon you, walk beside you all the way, making that yoke an easy yoke, and this, your heaviest burden, light!