Project Canterbury




A Sermon


WAYNE, PA., APRIL 17, 1890,








Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2007

O thou Worship of Israel. Our fathers hoped in thee: they trusted in thee and thou didst deliver them.
xxii psalm, verses 3 and 4.

The Lord our God be with us as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us nor forsake us.
1st Kings viii, v. 57.

THE student of the Psalter will remember that what is rendered "Worship" here has in the elder tongue another meaning, at once more restricted and more precise. But it was a poet's instinct that in this oldest authorized version in our mother speech preserved the word we have. To read, "O thou enthroned One," would, indeed, have been more exact, but neither so forcible, nor in the deepest sense so true.

For the worship of a people determines at once its character and its destiny. The worship of Israel--the object of its worship, and the nature of it--was once the signature of its degradation, for it was no higher nor better than that of the savage peoples among whom originally Israel found itself. But [3/4] when, one day, there dawned, here and there, upon one and another and another, the Vision and the character of God, then the turning-point had come. It was not the patriarch, not the law-giver, not the prophet, that redeemed the race, but the slow-dawning consciousness of God, pushing its way through that strange human imperviousness to the truth which made it necessary for generations of discipline to develop a faculty competent to its apprehension--this it was that wrought the miracle of transformation. Once there was a race of slaves, crouching beneath the lash of their Egyptian task-master. And then there came to be a race of masters, quickened by the consciousness of sonship and fealty to God. Thou "Worship of Israel." The spell that had wrought the change was all in those few words.

Nor is it otherwise here and to-day. This House, that Altar, this solemn service of consecration, stand for facts which in our national, social, personal history are equally "among the foundations." To explain the situation in this community, in this commonwealth, in this Republic, and leave those facts out, is simply to trifle with them. This Church will never make much noise in the world. Compared, e. g., with the thunderous and glittering highway yonder, over which day and night, year in and year out, there stream the traffic, the travel, the literature, the re-acting civilizing forces of two hemispheres, it will be a very quiet and a very unobtrusive agency. But [4/5] if anybody should come to fancy, because of that, that you or I, or the nation, could dispense with this House and with all similar agencies, he or his children would one day wake up to find their mistake amid a ruin so colossal and a barbarism so benumbing that the desolations of Thebes and Baalbec would be to them the merest child's-play. There is just one force that holds in check the native savagery of man, and that is the vision and consciousness of God. There is no truth more fundamental, as at once explaining and interpreting our past, than this. "O thou Worship of Israel. Our fathers hoped in thee: they trusted in thee and thou didst deliver them." And there is no prayer more urgent, both with reference to our present and our future, than this: "The Lord our God be with us as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us nor forsake us."

The words link thus the past with the present, even as, forever, the two are indissolubly connected. We are not fond of believing in that connection now-a-days, though we go on perfunctorily repeating the second commandment, which states the law of heredity with august and awful solemnity. But, all the same, the law is true, and there could be no more beautiful or gracious illustration of it than that which we are here to consummate to-day. This House is first of all a Church of God, and a witness therefore, before all else, to that fundamental consciousness out of which come determining motives, conduct, character. [5/6] It has been reared here, first of all, again, because he who has reared it has learned by many voices and in many ways--it may have been but, as we may rejoice to believe, in view of this act--with ever-deepening consciousness, that God is, that he is still the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and that his worship is at once the highest and most helpful act possible to a human soul.

But, besides this, this building has quite another significance, of which, especially this morning, I wish to speak. It is not only a Church, a House of God, but it is a Memorial Church, with which he who has reared it desires perpetually to associate those two to whom, under God, he is in so many ways so preeminently indebted. It stands here because he who has reared it desires thus to carry on the work of those of whom it will stand enduringly as the beautiful and fitting monument; and because the faith and reverence and consecration of person and of substance to the cause of God, which distinguished them, have not ceased nor perished out of the land because those his parents have gone hence, but live anew, thank God, in him. This building, in other words, while it is reared only and solely "Ad majorem gloriam Dei," is also reared both to commemorate and to carry on the work of two of his departed servants who now rest from their labors.

In that element of personal reminiscence concerning these which, under such circumstances, cannot [6/7] be wholly inappropriate, I should, if mine had been either the knowledge or the intimacy that warranted it, have been justly tempted to indulge. As it is, I am still further restrained by what I know to be the shrinking reserve of one whom such reminiscences would most closely concern, and whose wishes in anything that I may say here I may not disregard.

But while this is so, there remains one aspect of that more personal element in the history and character of this structure, to which our texts themselves invite us, and from whose larger suggestions, I venture to believe, some not untimely considerations may be derived. Let me speak of them briefly for a few moments.

Nearly fifty years ago, there were living in this city two young persons recently united in marriage, and still more recently the subjects of a great sorrow. One of them, the husband, had been reared among our Presbyterian brethren, and the family of his wife were Quakers. Circumstances brought them under influences, then in the fullest tide of their activity, which found their center in St. Philip's Church in Vine Street. They sought admission to the fellowship of the Church, and soon became actively engaged in the work of St. Philip's parish. As time passed, those activities grew and widened, and one of the two, more especially, came to be intimately identified with him who was at the time the Bishop of this Diocese in those larger and more comprehensive [7/8] plans and undertakings which he was then initiating. A man, by natural endowment, of rare energy and ability, of singularly winning presence and warm heart--with a marked capacity for snatching in the chequered history of commercial life victory out of defeat, he gave his best powers not only nor mainly to the prosecution of his earthly business, but consistently and generously to the promotion of the cause of Christ and of his Church, in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, and for a time also in the Diocese of New-York.

In hearty sympathy with the life of the Church as it most actively expressed itself under the conditions amid which they then found themselves, he and his wife lived and wrought, distinguished by devotion to the traditions amid which they had been spiritually nurtured, and abundantly satisfied for a considerable part of their lives with the teaching and worship of the Church, as they first came to know it. They loved its evangelical spirit; they prized its liturgic reverence and dignity; they grew into closer touch with its Apostolic doctrine and fellowship; and these, more and more as life went on, came to be their joy and strength.

There will be no difficulty, I presume, among those to whom I speak, in understanding precisely what the words which I have just used, "the life of the Church as it then and there most actively expressed itself," stand for. They stand for that School in the [8/9] Church, fifty years ago in the zenith of its activity, with which are identified the names of the elder Bedell and John A. Clark, of Milnor, Tyng and Eastburn, of Dr. Bull and Dr. Richard Newton, of Suddards and Stevens, of Mead and Johns and Lee, and a whole host of others, of whom these were the worthy representatives--a School which has left a profound impression upon the Episcopal Church in this country and in England, and which has included, from the days of Venn and the elder Wilberforce, some of the noblest types of Christian character which the world has seen.

It is the fashion to speak of that School as well-nigh extinct, and to dismiss its characteristics as superannuated and eccentric peculiarities which have no vital relation to the Church's inheritance and the Church's life. There never was a more impudent, nor more superficial misstatement! I am not one of those whom it more immediately affects, and I am, neither by inheritance nor conviction, in very intimate sympathy with the particular Institutions or Organizations which have incarnated it. It would be easy enough, if it were worth while, to show how such Institutions and Organizations, and the school for which they stood, were liable to the charge of undervaluing one aspect of the Truth in the eagerness of their championship for another. I have, however, yet to find the school, the party, the wing, call it what you will, of our own Communion or of any [9/10] other in the Church catholic, of which the same might not equally be said; and all that can be deduced from such a statement is, that, constituted as human nature is, with those partial and fragmentary views of any truth which make its full and precise statement always so difficult and delicate a matter, such a condition of things is inevitable.

But when it is said that what is ordinarily known as the Evangelical School in this Church has become substantially an extinct species, like the Dodo or the Ichthyosaurus, and that we may label it as having outlived its usefulness, and dismiss it to the shelves of a museum of antiquities, then the statement goes so wide of the facts as to be well-nigh grotesque, and must needs be resented as it deserves.

For what were the peculiarities of that School which made up its character, gave it its specific identity, and endeared it to devout men and women, like those whom we commemorate to-day, who, though they ultimately outgrew some of its more restricted traditions, never ceased to honor it for its noble witness to certain fundamental verities? They are neither difficult to recognize nor to describe.

1. In the first place, there was the clear sense of the personal relation of the individual soul to a personal Maker and Saviour. That memorable movement which, beginning in England now nearly a century ago, some forty years later took on a more definite form and found more active expression in the [10/11] Established Church, stood first for this. It never affected, though it has often been falsely represented as doing so, a contempt for Institutions or even Institutionalism in the Church, but it seized and held up to view what it profoundly believed to be the end of Institutions, and supremely of Ecclesiastical Institutions, and that was the bringing men, personally and individually, into touch with Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ into living relations with men. In this I do not say that, as a school, whether in the Church of England or our own, it was alone; and any one who thinks so need only, in order to correct that impression, read the lately published biography of Robert Brett, a layman in the Church of England as remote from the Evangelical School as Pusey, who was his most intimate correspondent, was from Simeon or Venn. But what I do mean is that, to the School of which I am speaking, the truth of which I am speaking had a preeminent and paramount value which, in all its labors and literature, was almost wholly exceptional and unique. At this distance from the situation out of which that School took its rise, and under the changed conditions of the Church life of to-day, it is almost impossible (God be thanked that it is so!) to realize the spiritual deadness, the mechanical formalism, the widespread decay of reverence, earnestness, and faith, which then prevailed. Against that, the new Reformers rose in the might of a new-found conviction and newly awakened hearts. Again, I do not say [11/12] that they were alone. The Evangelical Revival was speedily followed by what can now be best described by calling it the Catholic Revival; and no man who has taken the trouble honestly to acquaint himself with the history of that Revival can lightly dismiss it as merely superficial, sentimental, or ceremonial. But of one fact there can be no doubt: the Evangelical Revival came first, and the other--recoiling, doubtless, from what it accounted its extravagances, its fragmentariness, its one-sidedness--nevertheless, as to the fundamental aim of awakening the spiritual life of the Church, simply followed in its wake.

2. But again: The movement to which I have referred stood also and equally for a larger freedom in the employment of means and agencies for the promotion of the Church's spiritual life. Time was when, in this country, almost the whole of that life in its public expression was summed up in the two Sunday services and, at best, an occasional observance of a Holy Day. That such a usage did not satisfy the demands of earnest people; that it did not meet the needs of the young and the untaught; that it practically denied the closer and more personal contact of pastoral ministrations with the personal soul, was first recognized by men who had caught the spirit of those informal meetings which Charles Simeon held among the undergraduates at Cambridge, which leading laymen in the Church of England convened in their own drawing-rooms, and which saintly women of rank and [12/13] culture in the same country made the centers of a quickening influence that went far in its day toward transforming the face of England's better social life. Those meetings were by many branded as emotional and irregular. They were the theme of many a jest which, when as a lad I came to live in this community, still lingered in it; and representations, which were often very grave misrepresentations of their character and results, were used as a means of terrifying people into abandoning them as unchurchly and disloyal. Never was there a small issue which had in it larger or more pregnant results. For, the spirit that antagonized these agencies, though it baptized itself, with Pharisaic arrogance, with the name of "Churchliness," was essentially unchurchly, because sectarian. It had no better conception of the Church, no larger vision of its Catholic inheritance and privileges, than to identify it with the traditions, the usages, the apathy, the frigidity of much of its life for the first forty or fifty years of its existence in this land; and thus to mistake the narrowness of a single generation for the boundaries of the Body Ecclesiastic. I do not say that in rejecting such an interpretation, and in declining to accept the reading of Morning and Evening Prayer twice every Sunday, with two sermons, and an occasional celebration of the Holy Communion, as an adequate expression of the devotional life of the Church, the School to which I refer had always, or often, any adequate recognition of [13/14] what their rejection implied; but this I do say, that this was that first step toward freedom, that first assertion within just and canonical limits of the distinction in worship and in the awakening and deepening and strengthening of the spiritual faculties and aspirations, between the permanent and the variable, which affirmed also the difference between the obligatory and the permissible, between the usual and the exceptional. As we think of what they contended for--a Wednesday evening lecture, the Friday evening devotional meetings in basements and in school-rooms, the Saturday evening preparatory meeting for the Holy Communion--we may not recognize at first for how much these things stood. But as we turn from those days to our own; as we look, for instance, at the work of our American Parochial Mission Society and all that it stands for; as we hear Aitkin or Knox-Little preach, and then wait through the after-meeting which follows upon such preaching, we may see in all these new and various instrumentalities for awakening the careless, for quickening the slumberous, for strengthening the faithful, the flower of that resolute and wide-eyed movement which began by saying, "Yes, I am a 'Prayer Book Churchman,' but I am not a Prayer Book bound machine. I believe in the blessings of a Liturgy, but I will not make of it a fetich. I do prize the Church's more stately and more venerable ways, but I am not prepared to say that she shall [14/15] never use any others. The prayer book, like the Sabbath, was made for man--not man for the prayer book; and as the new religion has made all days holy, as the Apostle reminds us, so surely we may believe that it has consecrated all blameless, even though to some of us they may seem common, things to sacred uses."

Again I say, all this was not necessarily in the consciousness of the men who strove for liberty within law in those other and earlier days of the Church's life in this land. But I do not know that the consciousness of its wider sweep is in that first breath of the morning that grows and expands into the mighty breeze that revives and reinvigorates a continent. And yet, in the one case as in the other, the germ of the greater was in the less; and the Evolution, as I verily believe, of a divine life was pulsating through the whole!

3. And finally the School that first nurtured the two devout and unselfish lives which this building commemorates, stood also for a resolute endeavor toward more direct contact with the people, and more helpful activities among the neglected and the outcast. I know that this has been challenged, but I believe it to be susceptible of absolute demonstration. When one, to whom he who has reared this Holy House will, I know, own himself, as reverently and gratefully as I do, to be pre-eminently indebted, became in the year 1845 the Bishop of this Diocese, [15/16] he found here, as he was often wont afterwards to say, a body of laymen who had, in our Communion in this country, in numbers, in character, and in unselfish devotion, few peers. In the Convention that elected him Bishop of Pennsylvania sat Thomas Robins, and Herman Cope, and Dr. Caspar Morris, and George M. Stroud, and Harry Conrad, and John Farr, and William Welsh, and others equally noteworthy for their devotion to every good work; and, in the years that followed them, John W. Claghorn, and Francis Hoskins, and James M. Aertson, and Frederick W. Porter, and Edward C. Biddle, and John W. Thomas, and Arthur G. Coffin, and John Bohlen, and George L. Harrison, and Charles E. Lex, and Francis Wharton (afterwards in Holy Orders), with a host of others equally worthy of commemoration, many of whom were engaged, amid the claims of secular life, in ministries which searched the alleys and the prisons, which wrought in hospitals and alms-houses, which taught on Sundays and week-days young men and lads and honorable women, not a few, which, in one word, prepared the way for that vast accession of lay-cooperation which, inadequate and exceptional as, in some aspects of it, it still is, is yet one of the brightest ornaments of the Church of our own day. That various and many-sided activity is now so almost universally characteristic of the Church's life, especially in her larger centers, that many of us can hardly [16/17] realize the time when it was not. But that there was such a time, and that the earliest departures from it found their noblest illustrations in this diocese, and in the City of Philadelphia, is, I think, a fact beyond dispute. As such things happily do, it was an enthusiasm that grew and spread, and it was also, it is but just to say, an enthusiasm in which those who were earliest awakened to it altered often their angle of vision, if I may so express it, in matters ecclesiastical, and became, as in the case of those whom we commemorate to-day, and also in the conspicuous instance of that rare and noble layman William Welsh, more just to other types of Churchmanship than that in which it had been reared--more in sympathy with Churchlier ways and a Churchlier worship, and more willing to recognize the value of agencies and instruments from which the founders of the school of Venn and Simeon and Bedell, and their earlier followers, distinctly recoiled. But, from first to last, these men were foremost in that practical realization of the spirit of the religion of Christ which, as incarnated in himself sought to reach out, and touch, and heal, and lift up the lowest and most alienated and most despised.

These, I say, were the distinguishing characteristics of the men of that school in which those whom, under God, this building commemorates were spiritually reared and largely nurtured. I do not say that there were not other distinguishing characteristics [17/18] that touched matters of doctrinal belief, and of the formal or ceremonial expression of that belief in rites and ceremonies. I do not say that these latter were not often more consciously present in the minds and on the lips of the men who were the leaders and exponents of that school of which I have been speaking this morning. But I affirm that, underneath them all, these were the convictions and aims that were potent as shaping character and influencing conduct. Are they any the less potent, to-day, in the best life of the Church? What but this has come to pass--that that which was the strong persuasion of the few as to the relations of the personal soul, as to the needs of the personal life, as to the obligations binding upon the personal conscience of a Christian disciple, has passed over, and passed into, and become a part of, the whole Church's life? We want a School to bear witness to aspects of Christian truth and duty which the Church as a whole is, or is in danger of, neglecting. But when the Church has taken up into itself and has absorbed, or appropriated, those best characteristics which were the life of any school, then the school can well afford--to die, do you say? Nay, but to thank God that now it lives a nobler life than ever before, as animating and ennobling the whole.

And that, I maintain, is precisely what has come to pass in this church. "Evangelical preaching"--[18/19] is it confined, now, to any one class of pulpits? An earnest recognition of the primary importance of personal religion, and of the value of any means that will help it, is this the badge of any single school? And not only words for Christ, but work for Christ--is there, anywhere, a party or affiliation of Churchmen that frowns upon or disesteems that? Believe me, brethren, the great School which nurtured so many of our fathers, who in it learned to trust in God and were holpen by him, has not lived in vain nor ceased to live in their children, even though the sum of their children's Credo, whether in Ritual or in Doctrine, be not the statements of the XXXIX Articles.

For, finally, we must consent to learn that truth of which those whose memories are perpetuated in this building were conspicuous instances, glad as they both grew to be to unlearn many an earlier prejudice and to advance to a larger vision and richer conception of the Church's worship and life--and that is, that it is the office of a living Church not to stand still, but to go forward. There are dear and honored brethren to whom I speak to-day, who have listened to me doubtless thus far with something of suspicion, and possibly something more of dismay. They hate compromise with error, as they call it, and they distrust, it may be, most of all, the counsels of one who is pledged, as they imagine, by his very position, to a gospel of compromises under all possible circumstances. [19/20] Believe me, dear brethren, you were never more mistaken in your lives. I detest compromises as heartily, and I venture to think I have shunned them as consistently, as any of you. But I do believe in comprehensions, and in comprehensions most of all, of all who are moved by loyalty to Christ and love for his lost ones, whether these traits illustrate themselves in the School of Simeon or in the School of Keble. I believe, with a passionate conviction which I can but feebly put into words, in the enduring applicability to the Church's life and teaching and work of to-day, of those words which in his second address to the Convention of this Diocese the Bishop of Pennsylvania spoke now nearly fifty years ago--words as true, as timely, and as pertinent now as then. "At such a time as this," said he, "we must be content to recognize practically (not theoretically, merely, observe) the broad and comprehensive principles on which the reorganization of the Anglican Church of the Reformation period was conducted, and thus to be tolerant of diversities in doctrine and practice which have always prevailed, and which are not likely to disappear except before the fires of a ruthless intolerance.We must be willing to admit the indefeasible right to think which pertains to every human being,.and at the same time we must endeavor to train our people in a dutiful reverence for the authority and requirements of the Church, and urge upon them that, avoiding 'foolish [20/21] and unlearned questions,' they endeavor to give full effect to the Church's admirable provisions for the training of the young and for the instruction and improvement of their own souls; neglecting none of her clear directions for the observance of her Fasts and Festivals, for the catechizing of her children, and for the due and decent administration of her Worship and Offices." [* Address of Rt. Rev'd Alonzo Potter, D. D., LL. D., to the 63d Annual Convention of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.] In other words, order with charity, reverence with labor, conscience and tolerance, the large heart, and the open mind, and the docile soul--these will not give us the precise type of piety that was bred under the ministries of Bedell and Clark, and James A. Fowles, any more than (which may God forbid) they will give us back the Egyptian architecture, after the pattern of which our fathers thought it so fine to rear a Christian sanctuary. But, as here we have not reproduced the old double-decker arrangement which obtained in St. Philip's in Vine street, as I remember it as a boy, but have secured something more seemly, more reverent, more worthy of God's Sanctuary and God's worship, and yet, all the while are going to keep the old fires of devotion burning within these walls, and to train here, please God, a sainthood which shall not let go either the memories or the treasures of the past amid the greater comeliness of the present, so let us see to it that it shall be in the nobler future that opens before this Diocese and our American Church.

[22] Be this, then, our prayer! As God was with our fathers, so may he be with us. Ours are not only new tasks, but also new instruments and new opportunities. Let us be afraid of the dreary Bourbonism which, under the much-abused name of Conservatism, is afraid to use the one or to improve the other. Let no sporadic extravagances, here and there, whether of doctrine, or of ritual,--extravagances which thrive only when quickened and dignified by a notice of which they are wholly unworthy,--beguile us into the delusion that they at all represent the real trend of the Church's life and thought. These flow in deep, broad currents fed from the heart of Christ, in quite another direction; and more than ever are they drawing to them the respect of the serious and the thoughtful, the sympathy of the earnest and the devout, the longings of the perplexed and distressed. Happy the man whose privilege it is to rear a House for God in such an age as this! To such a House men's hearts have never turned more humbly and longingly than multitudes of them are turning to-day. May they hear within these walls, my dear brother, the message of Hope from your lips, and receive at your hands the bread of Life. And, as the years go by, may He whose presence we invoke to-day be more and more clearly revealed in this His seat and dwelling-place to souls that look to see Him. "O thou worship of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee, and thou didst deliver them--Leave us not, nor forsake us!"

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