THE RT. REV. NATHANIEL S. THOMAS D. D.
BISHOP OF WYOMING
CATHEDRAL OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE
ON THE OCCASION OF THE
THE RT. REV. HERBERT SHIPMAN D. D.
SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF NEW YORK
ST. ANDREW’S DAY
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 30th
Malachi, 3:6.--"For I am the Lord Thy God. I change not,
therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."
WE are living in an age of change. Fluctuation is of the very order of things. No period of the world's history manifests greater deviation from previous establishments. It matters little to what domain of thought or action we turn for illustration, so generally is this recognized. Changing conditions prevail wheresoever we look. May I ask you then to scan with me briefly if you will, a few arbitrary areas?
The Astronomer of today is projecting his thoughts over distances and masses so vast, that the universe of yesterday is dwarfed in comparison with this staggering macrocosm.
The Physicist of today is concerned with weights and spaces so minute, and is measuring forces so subtle and intangible, that anything greater than a molecular force seems commonplace and uninteresting. Last summer the wife of one of the world's greatest Physicists, in speaking to me of her husband's work, declared that he found it difficult to interest himself in masses greater than what might be represented by the fraction of an atom. We are now living in the day of the electron when hitherto unsuspected fields of electric influence are compelling powerful modification of simple atomic theories. Even well established laws, like the Newtonian law of Gravitation, are challenged without charge of presumption, and in the domain of Physics as well as Philosophy, the absolute as such, is finding its meaning only in terms of the relative.
The Chemist of today likewise lives in a whorl of adventurous hopes and achievements. Two generations ago, Professor Silliman of Yale, speaking of his own chosen science in which he was one of the most eminent and distinguished exponents, said: "Chemistry is unquestionably the one science in which no discoveries can be hoped for, in importance commensurate with the discoveries hitherto made." Could any prophesy have been more mistaken? In the laboratory of the Chemist, forces and combinations, hitherto unknown, have been portrayed to us, so extraordinary and disturbing to many well established conclusions, that there seems nothing too audacious to claim for the future. The discovery of Radium alone has introduced us to a new world, wherein we see a veritable topsy-turvy land. The static condition of Chemistry as Professor Silliman saw it has passed into a continuous flux.
All the Physical Sciences partake of this whorl of modification and change.
Passing from the laboratory to the world of action, we find the spirit of change expressing itself here quite as tumultuously. We have passed through a World War. Some sort of gigantic upheaval was inevitable. Old regimes were sowing the seeds of discord and revolution, and their overthrow was inevitable. New ones are now taking their place. That monarchy should totter was but a natural accompaniment of the restless dissatisfaction with things as they were. And the end in the industrial and commercial world is not yet.
Can the same be said of warfare? That is what we are all asking. A most momentous gathering is now in session in Washington, intent upon this very thing. The noble and courageous proposal of our great Secretary of State is full of hope. That some plan must be agreed upon by which future wars may be obviated, is the longing of the human heart, for the future war, if there be one, will be a new thing under the sun. Will Irwin in his recent book "The Next War," has called our attention [1/2] to the horror which will inevitably accompany it. Whatever of glory and honor may have encompassed war in the past, will have largely departed. Courage, self sacrifice, devotion to a cause, personal bravery and all the glorious by-products of a gigantic evil, will have generally disappeared, and in their stead death and destruction, ignoble in all its accompaniments, on a scale so colossal that whole peoples will be exterminated by gasses, poisons, plagues and the other devices of an age when the Titanic forces of nature, like the stars in their courses against Sissera, will be employed in the intent of utter extermination.
The conditions of war have changed, because the conditions appertaining in the world have changed.
Last winter I preached to a great gathering in Calvary Church, Pittsburgh. Eight hundred people possibly were in the Church. Three or four times that number were listening in from Minnesota to Texas. The following day the rector called me up by telephone and told me that a man had wired him from Oklahoma, telling him he had enjoyed the service and that he had recognized the voice of the preacher whom he knew well.
This miracle of modern achievement is but a symptom of universal expectancy and the new spheres which we are invading. We are living in changing conditions, some of them not wholly desirable, as for instance may be observed in the domain of University education. At no time in the history of the world, were so many of our youth attending institutions of higher learning, but in most of them the curricula are so arranged that it appears to an outsider as though a degree were of more importance than an education. In our schools of secondary instruction, the motor and the movie are in evidence, with no counter-agencies observable in the domain of religion and morals.
To many of us, these changing conditions are fraught with menace and peril. To all of us there comes the question of the Apostle who said "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the Words of Eternal Life." To some of us, wearied and well nigh exhausted by the turmoil and instability of the world, there comes a time of great sympathy with Lyte when he wrote
"Change and decay in all around I see, Oh Thou Who changest not, abide with me!"
But is this true? Is it true that in this universe of order, which also is a universe of change, the author and creator of all is changeless? Is it true that change is foreign to His being: that change is incompatible with His perfection?
So says Dr. Pusey in his famous commentary upon the passage I have selected for my text. He writes, "I am the Lord. I change not." A better reading and one more concise, "I, the Lord, change not." "The proper name of God, He Who is, involves His unchangeableness. For change involves imperfection; it changes to that which is either more perfect or less perfect." But Dr. Pusey, though he died as recently as 1882, lived in a mental environment now as remote as that of Thomas Aquinas. He was the scholar of the Oxford movement, as Keble was its poet, and Newman its inspiration. As time went on, Dr. Pusey became the main support of the movement now so militant and well established; a movement that still finds its popular strength in its appeal to authority. As Dr. Liddon, his biographer wrote of him, "Unlike Newman in one direction, and Mozley in another, Pusey always distrusted Philosophical methods of handling theology; [2/3] he took refuge in authority." Whether that of Scripture or of the primitive Church. And here is his appeal to authority. Malachi, the prophet, so said. So also said the author of the 102nd Psalm who when speaking of the Heavens said they should wax old like a garment, and as a vesture they should be changed, but that the fashioner of the Heavens was the same.
In both cases, however, it is obvious from the context just what the sacred writers mean. The Prophet Malachi is explaining why the sons of Jacob are not consumed. It is because the God of Jacob has given His promise, and that in His moral purpose He cannot change. The Psalmist has in mind the element of permanence in the Godhead. The Heavens will pass away, but the fashioner of them will never pass away. They change, as happening in time,--God transcends time. So the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, conceives of Jesus Christ, as related to the continual exercise of His Love, as "the same, yesterday, today and forever," and so St. James would portray the "Father of Lights" as the constant giver of all good gifts. The figure is thrown back upon the lights from Heaven which cast their shadows as they move, now West, now East. Not so with God, "with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow which shifts as the light turns."
It is interesting that the Heavens, to the ancients generally the picture of constancy, should to the Psalmist and the Apostle express the very opposite thought. It is as though God, the Father of Lights, is set in contra-distinction to His creation in this, that whereas the lights of the firmament shine now on this wise and now on that, the fashioner of them sheds the light of His love without change upon his favored people; which again is to say that in His moral purposes God is constant because He is good; and goodness knows no alternative, for God wills it.
In none of these passages is there the statement made that change as such, is of the nature of imperfection.
Dr. Pusey was not a Philosopher. Had he been, or had he known his Hegel as he knew his Schliermacher, he must have known that his naive argument, smacking of the medieval schoolmen, that change involves imperfection because of the implied movement to the more perfect or the less perfect, failed just where the Arian argument failed in the Nicean controversy. Dr. Pusey has assumed, as do those whose appeal is ever to a fixed and changeless authority, that He who lives and moves in the domain of infinite change, can only stand above it as above the water flood, and can in wise so enter into it, as to become one with it.
Dr. Pusey was a theologian of the medieval type, when theology was the creature of Logic. Where Philosophy is more or less constant and Science more or less static, as in the long period between Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, a body of theology worked out in all its nicety in any period, may be achieved. In fact, Thomas Aquinas did develop his "summa," a noble piece of work for the time in which it was done, when differences were within well established bounds. But it was the theology of a period, a veritable period of the shut-in; a theology worked up upon proof texts, deemed, wherever found, of equal authority and value under the doctrine of verbal inspiration; a theology consistent with the Platonic philosophy which had held the field for more than a thousand years without rival; and equally consistent with a congeries of scientific blunders, born of the deductive method, which held the intellectual world in bondage during the period when the so-called Catholic theology was in the making.
 Just what is meant by the Catholic theology, grows increasingly difficult to determine. Some would say, whatsoever stands the test of the Vincencian Rule, i.e., whatsoever has been believed by all, in all places and at all times, is the Catholic heritage. But in the light of recent historical investigation, new doctrines can stand this test. Were one to ask what is the Catholic Doctrine of the Atonement, there could be no answer under the Vincencian Rule. The nearest approach to it would be, the doctrine which obtained for a thousand years, that Christ paid the debt of sin to the Devil. But I doubt if our medievalists themselves would be willing to accept this doctrine.
Should I hesitate to aver that howsoever secure the facts, upon which Christian Doctrine has been based, the doctrines erected upon those facts have with few exceptions, changed with the changing years; and this in spite of the maneuverings of the learned, who have sought to show that the germs at least of each doctrine are able to stand the test of the Vincencian Rule? John Henry Newman fretted under this and published his doctrine of development, primarily to justify the Papacy but, as well, to escape the embarrassments of the Vincencian Rule. This doctrine was advanced four years before Darwin published his Evolutionary Hypothesis, and yet, so fearful has been the Protestant World of Newman's conclusion by the use of this method, that the method itself has received but scant justice. A monstrosity may be developed as well as a norm, but development seems to be the method by which God works, and development is change,--change which by no means involves imperfection; and this for the reason that laws which obtain in the realm of the Finite, may or may not obtain in the realm of the Infinite. Truths considered to obtain universally because they were so known in the domain of our own experience, are now known to be confined to that plane of experience. 2 plus 2 equals 4 in one scale of notation, and possibly in one scale of notation only.
And this was the weakness of Medieval Theology. It was confined to one plane. Its strength was the cogency of its logic. But logic is limited by its data, and when the data are the subjects of inquiry, logic can but cry for help. It was for this reason that Hegel threw the weight of his mighty intellect into the endeavor to discover, by an analysis of consciousness and a better understanding of self determination, a method of reasoning in another plane of thought, as satisfactory for that plane, as the logical method was in its own. The results of Hegel's studies were only partially successful, but since his day, thinking has veered further away from logic, and, when dealing with unargued presuppositions, has relied upon the Hegelian method, asserting that we cannot think certain categories of thought save in terms of their opposites,--e.g., we cannot think center without thinking circumference; we cannot think finite without thinking infinite; we cannot think absolute without thinking relative. If the one is, the other must be. Spurred on by the same realization of the inadequacy of logic, psychology has become the interest of the past generation, and with its advent the day of the pigeon hole has passed.
Fifty or sixty years ago Horace Porter wrote a book of two volumes on the Human Intellect, with an introduction upon Psychology. He disposed of the affections and the will in his introduction. Into the one cubby hole of the intellect he placed all he had to write. Today we no longer hear of the will, the intellect and the affections. We have been taught that we should speak of the man willing, the man thinking, and the man feeling.
Fifty or sixty years ago Augustus [4/5] Hare wrote a notable book on the Mission of the Comforter, in which he carefully distinguished the function of the Holy Spirit to the World, from His Function to the Church and to the individual. It is beautiful logic but it is bad psychology. Hare's was an epoch-making book in his day, but the flood of theological literature of this type, never rising above the plane of the logical, is keeping the Church from satisfying the cravings of some who realize that howsoever true the Christian verities may be, the methods employed for their defense are all too frequently outworn. Sharpness of definition in matters pertaining to God and His realm, are of a piece with Dr. Pusey's understanding of the meaning of change.
From the time when Sir William Hamilton developed the use of the integral in the Calculus, the infinite has been used as audaciously and with as extraordinary results, as, prior to that time, in Algebra the unknown was handled as a known factor under the letter X. Thus it happens that the Mathematician, the only scientist whose apparatus will permit him to deal in any way with the infinite, has taught us that the logician erred when he assumed that truths proved in the domain of the finite, were universally true. But to this indictment, the catholic theologian is as culpable as is the logician. Illustrative of this is the way in which the Doctrine of the Kenosis has been condemned. This doctrine was ever opposed on the ground that its acceptance would emperil the perfection of the God head. This reasoning was based upon the presumption that the plane of the theologian was as the plane of the logician; that the problem was one of simple subtraction; and that, whatever the subtrahend, if it were a definite quantity, the remainder was of necessity less than the minuend. But the Mathematician now tells us that in the domain of the infinite, this is not true; and the nature of the infinite is such that it cannot be increased by addition or diminished by subtraction.
Here then is a generalization universally operative in the finite which has no application in the infinite. So likewise, the generalization Change, which does involve imperfection in the domain of the finite by an irrefragable logic, does not involve imperfection when predicated of or applied to the infinite.
And so the modern theologian, in contradistinction to the medievalist, pursuing the psychological approach and using the Ariadne thread of the mathematician by which to escape out of the labyrinth fabricated by logical ingenuity, is prone to conceive of God not as the unconditioned, as Mansell viewed him, but as the all conditioned; not as the undetermined, but as the all determined; not as primal cause but as pleroma; not as the unrelated or absolute, but as the all related. Pascall was feeling in this direction when he wrote "God is a circle, whose center is everywhere, whose circumference is no where."
Can it be that the brilliant generalizations of Einstein applying to the realm of things in the domain of physics, a law of relativity, which one hundred years ago Hegel demonstrated obtained in the domain of metaphysics, is but a fuller expression of that majestic doctrine which the Church at Nicea courageously and without understanding wrote into its Creed? Who need fear to hold that truth is one, and who need be ashamed of the hope that what is shown to be fundamentally true in the domain of thought, must eventually be shown to be likewise true in the domain of being?
It was the conceit of the poet Browning, in his Ring and the Book, that truth might be conceived as Fact plus Fancy minus the Fancy. And poetic fancies have not infrequently been the [5/6] precursors of what was soon to be accepted truth. To the imaginative mind of Goethe, the flower was but the modification of the leaf, a generalization which today the botanist proclaims as established.
And now a growing body of philosophers are announcing with remarkable concert that truth cannot properly be framed in terms of the absolute, but must be set in terms of relation and change. James has given us a pragmatic philosophy which is a philosophy of change, and Bergson, his brilliant follower, contends for the proposition that reality is not to be reached by any elaborate construction of thought, but is given in immediate experience as a flux, a continuous process of becoming, to be grasped by intuition and by sympathetic insight.
Change, then, far from being an element of imperfection, is of infinite content, and is the very nature of completeness. And thus it follows that theologians of today, whose attitude is ever one of contentment with the standards established when the world was more or less static,--have ceased to be faithful conservators of those divine deposits of truth bestowed upon us by Jesus Christ, which in the kaleidoscopic light of modern knowledge reflect an infinite variety of colors upon a world dull and impoverished in moral beauty.
Under the rule of our Lord Jesus Christ, the doctrine of specially favored peoples is compelled to resign in favor of the great Pauline pronouncement that God hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell upon the face of the whole earth, and that as a consequence, all men are brethren. With each and every people, with each and every individual thereof, God is infinitely concerned. And the Christ who out of His boundless love for mankind changed His abode from Heaven to earth, and who, after "emptying Himself of the perfection of the Glory which He had with the Father before the world was", endured the Cross and despised the shame, that all peoples of every age should look unto Him and be saved, must welcome any change which His servants can develop to carry on the task which he "bought with no less a price than the effusion of His own blood."
As I look about me, I see in this city, to whose tasks three bishops for the first time in the history of our Church will address themselves, the most changing population of any city the world has ever seen. Hither have gathered in amazing numbers, representatives of all the peoples of the world, bringing with them such rejections of the past as to invade in many instances their hitherto most cherished beliefs and devotions. Changes in religious habit of thought and worship, are wont to follow changes elsewhere. The vital problems of this city are appalling in their immensity and in their complexity. I was walking with Bishop Greer from the Church Missions House to his home on lower Fifth Avenue, late one afternoon, as the shops and factories were closing. With an accent of utter helplessness and dismay, he cried, "Look at the people! Oh, look at the people!" Greeks, Slavs, Turks, and the immigrants from Asia, Europe, Africa and the Islands of the Sea. The great majority of this seething mass are religiously not being reached by any organized endeavor. No one knew this better than Bishop Greer, for the problems were too subtle to be solved by conventional methods. London has its problems, as have Paris and Berlin. But they are respectively English, French and German problems which may be solved after the experience of the centuries on the soil from which they sprang. But the problems of New York, religiously and otherwise, are world problems [6/7] which our religious leaders have not yet begun to solve. To pursue the primrose path of pure Anglican theology amid such a company will satisfy the few, but will certainly lose the masses. To make overtures to European Medievalists here, who are daily losing their Medievalism, seems obviously unsound. To sell our birthright for a mass of pottage to appease the clamour of weakening protestantism, seems equally unwise. So colossal a task can only be performed by methods susceptible of change, not simply within narrow boundaries, but extending over great areas.
No national Church in this country is holding her own. Rome grows by leaps and bounds, but does not keep pace with her own immigration. Protestantism is seeking to readjust herself. Since the last Lambeth Conference, our own branch of the Church has been offered the opportunity of seeing as never before, the advantageous position she holds in the religious world, not as a via media only, but as a body with a great and positive contribution to a religiously unsettled world. That world is here in miniature, in New York. How and when will our Church here rise to its unique opportunity? Not until sky pilots of the Church create machines to invade the atmosphere of religious turmoil, and then fear not to leave their well-built hangars to rise and dominate a new environment.
For more than fifteen hundred years the Church has scarcely changed the fashion of its instruments. The parish is still almost the universal tool. A narrow parochialism still pervades the life of our cities. Parochial needs still bulk larger in gifts and bequests than the needs of the Diocese, the Province, or the General Church. But the parish has long ceased to be an instrument of sufficient weight and strength for many of the tasks now laid upon us. New York, like every other metropolitan diocese, is filled no doubt with overlapping corporations, unrelated to any central authority, and though most of them have served the Church faithfully and well under the simpler conditions of yesterday, they are now plainly inadequate to the larger tasks now pressing upon them. In fact the need is not one of syndication and synthesis of already existing factories of moral and spiritual production. New vital centers of influence, based upon new conceptions of need, must now be developed, under sufficient centralization to prevent overlapping, if our Church is to minister to the millions who, were they to be brought under our influence, would contribute to the welfare of our own spiritual life as fully and effectively as we may hope to contribute to theirs.
The day has come when our Church must realize that changing conditions are demanding corresponding changes in the lessons which we teach, and in the methods which we employ.
And now, my Brother, I would speak to you a personal word. Change not! Serious danger attends every elevation. Remain what I believe you to be,--an earnest seeker after Truth, a loyal servant of your Master. St. Paul, having equipped his Christian soldier with all the arms and armour sufficient to his calling, said "and having done all, to stand!" Stand where your allegiance to your Saviour compels you to stand. Change not in your moral purposes. Seek no other favour than the favour of your Lord. Fear not what men may do unto you, for they can but kill the body, and after that there is nothing more that they can do. But fear lest, having been given great opportunity, you are unequal to seize it with profit to your Lord. I know not what your place will be in this City, nor the work which will be assigned you to do. But [7/8] I know that today you are to be consecrated to the office and work of a Bishop in the Church of God. The necessities of jurisdiction and the needs of men have found it desirable to make distinctions and degrees within this office, but the office itself is one and the same, than which there is no place higher in the Church of God, partly for which cause you will be very much alone. Grieve not for this, but be humbly thankful that, like your Master, you will be accounted worthy not only to bear shame for His Name, but to suffer loneliness and reproach and sorrow.
Change not in your love for that which is good. Holiness is the one thing that becometh the House of the Lord forever. Change not in your craving for this. Continue to make this your chief ambition. But in the mighty maelstrom into which you will be thrown, fear not to change your methods as the light shines, nor your inferior ends which after all are but means to further ends; and, above all, to change yourself in further consecration to your high and holy calling, in complete surrender to the service of Him Who came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and Who counted not His own life dear unto Himself.
"Spend and be spent,
Thy joy to do the Master's Will!
It is the way the Master went
Should not the servant tread it still?