THE following discourse, not designed for publication, but now printed at the request of the Rector of St. Thomas' Church, of the Minister-in-Charge of the Chapel, and of the St. Thomas' Association for Parish Work, is allowed to go to the press that it may remain in their hands as a Witness and Memorial of the earnest thankfulness of the Preacher for their good work and labour of love, as for all others of a similar character.
NEW YORK, Jan. 25, 1873.
Then came Jesus, the door being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then said He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.--And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God! Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.--ST. JOHN, XX. 26-9.
On the 4th day of October last, less than three months ago, on a beautiful autumnal afternoon, in the presence of the Pastor and many zealous helpers in this work, and of many warm-hearted sympathizers with every good work, I laid with joy and thankfulness the corner-stone of this Mission Chapel of St. Thomas' Church. To-day, after so brief an interval that the work seems like magic nay, better than magic, like a wondrous Christian miracle--to-day we return, and in place of those disjecta membra which we then saw lying confusedly around in place of those crude, unformed materials, we find the same materials indeed, but grown into a goodly House, meet for the service of the Lord Most [5/6] High meet for the worship of the ever blessed, and glorious Trinity Father, Son and Holy Ghost meet for the presence of those Holy Angels who in holy places minister unseen between heaven and earth--a Sanctuary for the Word and Sacraments of grace for prayer and praise to be a home of love and sympathy for the way worn and desolate stranger--a place of rest and refreshment for the weary and heavy laden--a place which, through long years to come, shall be so radiant with heavenly light, so full of tender manifestations of God's love and mercy, that here, in many a soul, in secret, light will arise in the darkness,--a dawning hope will steal over the desponding spirit, and many that come in sadness and gloom will go away with the joy and thank fulness of a new and better life; to many that come in doubt the blessed Saviour will be so wondrously revealed that they, like Thomas, will exclaim in mingled awe and rapture, "My Lord and my God!"
With such feelings, dear brethren, we enter this goodly House to-day; and with such feelings we have set it apart forever from all worldly and common uses, and consecrated it to the worship and service of the Lord God [6/7] Almighty, that it may be holy unto Him, His especial dwelling-place, according to His promise--a work of our hands indeed, but presented as an offering unto Him for the ministries of His Church, in the humble hope and prayer that it may be forever filled with His grace and heavenly benediction.
Surely, beloved, it is a great privilege for you, or for. any other mortal man, to have part in the erection of a building to be employed for long years to come long after you and I shall have finished our earthly course, in ministering to the glory of God, and to the enlightening, comforting, saving of so many souls.
I rejoice with you in the opening and consecrating of this fitting and commodious Chapel. The faith and courage with which this work was conceived and undertaken, and the vigour with which it has been carried on to its completion, speak well for the spirit of the young men and their co-workers in St. Thomas' Church. Thanks to the Giver of all good for this enlarged provision for His ser vice! To all the zealous, loving hearts, which, moved by His grace, have offered themselves, and a portion of the things that come from Him, for His honour and glory, and for a ministry of mercy among the souls [7/8] redeemed through His one offering of Himself, your Bishop tenders his warm acknowledgments.
I sympathize with the joy of the faithful Minister of this chapel, and I sympathize with the grateful feeling of the beloved Rector and the good people of the parent Church at the crowning of a work so satisfactory and so creditable to all parties concerned. May it indeed be crowned with the blessing of the Most High, and may it prove to unnumbered multitudes, age after age, to be none other but the House of God--none other but the very Gate of Heaven.
Yesterday, we, and all our brethren of this American branch of the One Holy Catholic Church, and all our brethren of the Mother Church of England--all members of the one Anglican Communion, all round the world--in Africa, in both the Indies in the islands of the sea, in chapels on the continent of Europe--in Rome, in Jerusalem--in China, in New Zealand--in ships on the ocean--many hundreds of thousands of our brethren were bowed down in prayer and intercession to the adorable Lord of the harvest, that He would be graciously pleased to send forth more labourers into His harvest. Everywhere [8/9] there is need: Africa, and Japan, and China, and the islands of the sea are stretching out their hands to us! Everywhere we see fields white for the harvest, and an anxious waiting for faithful servants of our Lord to enter in and reap for the great in-gathering in the last day.
To-day, in this new chapel, we join our prayers to those which were offered yester day, and make it our earnest supplication to God the Holy Ghost, that through the ministrations of this holy place, and through the influences which shall go out from this centre of loving devotion, many earnest souls may be moved to lay hold on the hope set before them in the Gospel, and may be led on to become able ministers of the New Testament, devoted, self-denying servants of Christ, ready to go and serve wherever His Church shall think meet to send them.
Yesterday was the day of united intercession; and to-day is the Feast of St. Thomas. And what has the history of the doubts and the Faith of St. Thomas to do with the erection and consecration of another House for the worship and service of Almighty God, for the ministrations of the Church of Christ? Much, in many ways!
 Thomas, in the absence of the visible presence of the Lord, had nothing for faith in the Resurrection to rest upon but the testimony which his brethren bore to one apparition of the Crucified, risen from the tomb. The fact of the Resurrection was too marvellous too unexampled too inconceivable to be accepted without irresistible evidence without the evidence of more senses than one. The great Teacher had yielded to death! How could He rise again? What are a few words of promise, far in the past, and effaced by the dreadful events of the last preceding days what are they against the overwhelming confutation of the Cross and the Tomb? Words of promise are things of air, and may be things of fancy, or of pride and pretension; but a death of extremest ignominy and suffering, witnessed by all the world death holding its prisoner fast, even on to the third day that is an appalling, withering fact. "The Master risen! The Master seen by fond and excited brethren and by none else impossible!" says the doubting Thomas. Not by merely seeing a resembling form not "except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and. put my finger into the print [10/11] of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, will I believe."
Ten thousand things that support our faith were wanting to St. Thomas; repeated communings of the disciples afterward, with the risen Lord; the witness of five hundred brethren who together see Him; His glorious Ascension; the descent of the Holy Ghost, according to His promise, and the miracles wrought in the power of His name; the triumphs of His Church in the early ages, when opposed by all the world; the wondrous changes wrought among the nations through eighteen hundred years by the regenerating and transforming influence of His religion; all these subsequent demonstrations of the reality of the Resurrection were wanting to St. Thomas. He feels in himself that the thing is impossible, that his unbelief is invincible; and yet no sooner does the risen Lord appear in his presence, calling upon him by name to reach out his finger, and put away his doubts in the awful Touch, than his whole soul recognizes the reality, and bursts forth in an answering cry of faith: "My Lord and my God!" The irreverent touch--O! of that there is no need! Enough the never-to-be-forgotten Form and Features! Enough that wondrous [11/12] Eye that thrilling Voice that reading of the heart! All doubt vanishes in a moment. The sacred narrative furnishes no warrant for those many pictures which represent St. Thomas as touching the sacred form. The sight was all-sufficient;--the Saviour says: Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed."
And the faith of St. Thomas embraces the whole mighty truth: the resurrection of the Incarnate Lord: the Humanity, and within its veil the Divinity God manifest in the Flesh; the Divine Mediator, who had power (exousia), authority to lay down His Life and authority to take it again, as a part of His mediatorial office and work. Yes; the Divinity, which dwelt in the man Christ Jesus departed not in death from the human Soul, nor from the human Body. It went with the Soul into the place of departed spirits; it dwelt with the Sacred Body in the silence and gloom of the tomb of. Joseph. And on the third day, that Divinity reunited the human Soul to the human Body, and came forth in the living God-Man Christ Jesus, triumphant over Death and Hell; so that when St. Thomas, gazing upon the Risen One, exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" he confessed the whole [12/13] wondrous and blessed truth, which is the sub stance of our Faith, the foundation of all our Hope.
The faith of St. Thomas sprang up suddenly, as a new creation, in the presence of the Truth; ("I am the Way and the Truth and the Life ") and the reality and power of that faith of St. Thomas was in after days abundantly vindicated by his labours in planting the Church in the East, and by his glorious martyrdom. St. Thomas believed because he saw with the eye of sense. Other means of awakening faith were as yet wanting. But, my dear brethren, how wonderful and how full of comfort the words of our blessed Lord: Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; blessed are they which have not seen, and yet have believed." There is hope, then, after all, that we, if we earnestly embrace the good things set before us, are not so very inferior in-privilege, in possible blessedness, to those favoured few, who with the eye of sense, looked upon the risen Lord, spake with Him, ate with Him, and witnessed His glorious ascension into Heaven: Blessed are they," it seems as if they were especially "blessed,"--"who have not seen, and yet have believed."
 We will not deny all worth to faith, arising in the presence of the visible object. We will not say that such faith is involuntary. Far from it; for we know that, in the very presence of some of the most unequivocal and astounding miracles of our blessed Lord, there were implacable enemies, who remained unreconciled to the Truth so authenticated nay, who went away from the presence of those miracles in all the greater rage, to conspire against His sacred life. We gratefully recognize the blessedness of that Faith, which, after such recent and great shocks, rose again, as. if from the dead, with the rising of the Lord; which clung to Him present, and waited for Him when absent, during those mysterious forty days between the Resurrection and Ascension which waited patiently after the Ascension, during those ten days of wonder and joy, until the Holy Ghost came down to fully enlighten them, and endue them with marvellous gifts. Yes! a glorious faith was that which after such grievous catastrophes sprang up at the sight of the Risen from the Dead and infinitely are we beholden to it. But it is not that Faith which our Lord so wonderfully distinguishes: "Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; blessed [14/15] are they that have not seen, and yet have believed!"
O yes! It is the Faith which springs up and embraces the unseen Lord; the Faith that triumphs over the evil suggestions of a proud and perverse Reason; it is the Faith which amid storms and darkness in times when all things seem to be against us, in losses, and poverty, and sickness, and loneliness--not only endures, as seeing Him who is invisible"--but continues meek, and gentle, and loving, and grateful humble, yet uplifted in full assurance of hope adoring the wisdom and goodness of the Lord thankful in the lowest estate for unnumbered mercies, and against every peril replying, not in cold and boastful stoicism, but from a heart knowing in Whom it has believed; "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him!" O, that is the Faith--faith in the unseen, faith in spite of the taunts of a cold, darkened reason--faith that can rise above evil and transmute evil into good that is the faith which our dear Lord pronounces "blessed." But how (in absence of the visible presence of our Lord) is such a faith to be created and maintained? Why, my dear brethren, in place of His visible presence we have [15/16] His visible Church His mystical Body, filled with His Spirit! We have His ministers, bearing His commission, and in His name dispensing the Word of God and His Holy Sacraments: "As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you: Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." We have the blessed Gospels, in which we see our adorable Lord, as if He were here present with us. We have before our eyes the wonderful works of God in and through His Church for eighteen hundred years--enlightening, humanizing, purifying changing the face of whole nations calling into existence for the relief of man's estate for the alleviation of his sufferings and sorrows for his deliverance from sin and death, a marvellous train of institutions, instinct with the very spirit of our Lord, and all unknown on this earth until He came to bring us new life and grace. At this very moment we ourselves are bearing our part in a multitude of agencies which are busy in doing the work of our Saviour Christ in the world. And, above all, to quicken and animate all these agencies, to give efficacy to the preached Word, spiritual life to the Sacraments, sanctity to our Holy Places to give a divine virtue to all our poor [16/17] ministries, to all our humble endeavours, whether in the Priesthood or out of it, we have the abounding grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we have the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, sent down from Heaven that in all our works of piety and charity we may have, in spite of our human infirmity, a sufficiency, and that of God.
O! with all these quickening powers of grace with the visible Body of Christ abiding on the earth, and doing its works of mercy before our eyes with our Holy Places vocal with prayer and praise with the Gospels in our hands with Christ-like labourers all around us, busy in every place of sin and woe healing the lepers with all these helps Faith in the unseen is not difficult! Every where we may see the wonder-working of our unseen Lord, and exclaim reverently, gratefully, with St. Thomas, "My Lord and my God!"
The worship and work of this Chapel is for the creating and supporting of Faith in the unseen Lord. As the poor, weary, anxious soul enters here, many and many a time will the secret emotions of love, of desire, of sorrow for sin, of thanksgiving, breathe out in whispers, My Lord and my God! "Drawing [17/18] near to that Holy Table to feed upon the spiritual food of the most blessed Body and Blood of Christ with no false devotion to perishable things, but with a lively faith in the unseen Lord how many hearts will be moved to the adoring confession of St. Thomas, My Lord and my God!" When they see their children in Holy Baptism taken into the arms of Christ, or when they look upon the dutiful members of Christ crowding. up to the chancel for a further strengthening gift of grace in the laying on of hands in Confirmation, they will recognize the Good Shepherd blessing His little ones, strengthening them that come to Him and they will muse in their hearts of all His great mercies in grateful confessions: "My Lord and my God!" They will see Him present, though He be invisible. Doubtless, the visible things of God's Church on earth may be trifled with and abused. Perverse souls may ruin themselves and perish in the very midst of God's mercies, and in spite of them. Nevertheless, they are mighty aids to faith, as well as means of grace, for which we may well be thankful: and if we see them in their true light as things instituted of God and blessed of Him--all [18/19] blessings that come through them coming solely from the alone merits and grace of Christ we shall regard them reverently, we shall desire them for ourselves, and for all the children of men to whom we can by any means carry them.
And that is the blessed work which the Young Men's Association of St. Thomas' Church have done, and are about to do for all this quarter of the city. They bring hither the Means of Grace; they set up here the House of the Lord, and they make this the Centre of works of love and mercy, which shall carry blessings year after year to many hearts to many desolate places, which need them much. Here in the Church here in. the Sunday School, and abroad in the streets and lanes of the surrounding region, your faithful Pastor, your loving Lay Helpers, your devoted Visitors will speak and teach, and minister for our dear Lord, and in His spirit; new-creating or vivifying faith in His presence, and in His ineffable love and mercy. Yes, my dear brethren, the ministry and work in and from this Holy Place is to do for thousands in this neighborhood what the visible presence of our Lord did for St. [19/20] Thomas: awaken a living, operative, purifying faith in the risen, all-merciful Saviour!
Ah! my dear brethren, here is a great truth, which we are all too slow to appreciate and turn into practice. Do we wish to convince the heedless, opinionated multitude that this Church of our affections is a living true branch of the One Church of Christ and her fruits pleasant to the soul, and much to be desired? Or do we wish to impress all, far and near, with a soul-stirring conviction that Revelation that the Religion of Jesus Christ is a most blessed and momentous reality? Let us not spend time in arguing! Let us not waste much of our breath and spirits upon abstract considerations, which take no effective hold of the minds and hearts of men but let us be busy in doing the works of Christ; in carrying about His loving Truth and His persuasive works of mercy.
You know the story of St. John Baptist: when from his prison house he sent messengers to inquire of Jesus whether the were the promised Christ, they found Him in the midst of an affecting assemblage of all human misery (you heard it in the Gospel for last Sunday [The Third Sunday in Advent]); they deliver their message, which [20/21] He scarcely seems to hear; He goes on with His marvellous work, and then, having finished it, He lifts himself up, and, turning to the messengers, He sends back this for all other answer; sends it back, as the sufficient proof of His Messiahship: Go, and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight; the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them; and blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me."
There, in that group, with Christ in the centre, doing works of mercy, in teaching and healing; there is an image of Christianity; there is an image of the Church of Christ, teaching and doing its work; only that now in the Church the Lord is the invisible, animating spirit within, and His ministers and people teach and work from Him, with His Truth and Grace, with His Worship, and Word, and Sacraments. Yes, my brethren; as our blessed Lord, in answer to St. John Baptist, pointed to His works for evidence of His Messiahship, His Divinity, so now must we appeal to our works or, rather, let our works speak for us, that our Religion is from God; that our Church is [21/22] indeed the Church of Christ, teaching as He taught, and according to our measure, living and working as He lived and worked. That is the only irresistible argument! That is the only kind of argument in which there can be no false, no deceptive reasoning. Of historic evidence there is a plenty but this the only kind of reasoning in which all Christian souls, however feebly endowed intellectually, may bear an honourable and useful part. Where such teaching, and such works and labours of love do prevail, as a living reality, there Christ Jesus the Lord does in deed seem to be present; Faith and Love spring up in His presence, and the awakened and converted, the pardoned and comfort ed, the relieved and supported, bow before Him with the whole soul, exclaiming with wondering love: My Lord and my God!" May this, my dear brethren, be the effect of all your teaching and works from this Holy Place, in all this region. God, most merciful, be with you, and be with us all! And in all our trials in Life, in Death, in the opening of the Eternal World, may our Faith and Love, turned only to one Object, move us to adore in the words of St. Thomas: "My Lord and my God."