TION OF THE PARISH.
PRINTED BY DUTTON AND WENTWORTH,
No. 37, Congress Street.
STIR UP, WE BESEECH THEE, O LORD, THE WILLS OF THY FAITHFUL PEOPLE; THAT THEY, PLENTEOUSLY BRINGING FORTH THE FRUIT OF GOOD WORKS, MAY BY THEE BE PLENTEOUSLY REWARDED, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD. Amen.
SERMON. NUMBERS, xxiii, 23.--WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT!
THE labors of religion have this advantage, besides all others, over the works of the world, that they point us incessantly to a higher agency than our own, operating in them, and so administer, even amidst their greatest success, an antidote to carnal pride. It is, indeed, possible, Beloved, so to review the history of the past nine years, in connexion with this Parish, as to minister to self-gratification. But, I trust, this is neither your disposition, nor mine. I would rather see, as it is most just and reasonable as well as religious to see, in what has been erected here, a monument of divine wisdom and power; and I would exclaim, with the prophet who spoke of the grandeur and glory of Israel, though with a more willing and obedient heart than he, "What hath God wrought!" When we consider the humble beginning of this Parish, the minuteness of the germ from which it sprung, the extreme difficulty of erecting such a Parish, on [5/6] such a system, anywhere in New England, and, perhaps I may say, especially in Boston; when we consider all with which it has had to contend, the coldness of many of our own Household of Faith, the evil reports of enemies, the timidity of friends, and, above all, the alienation most to be lamented, the alienation, during eight of the nine years of its existence, of him who might rather have been expected to be its nursing father; when, I say, we consider all this, one would think there could be little danger among us of self-elation or pride. So manifestly is the issue which is here presented, after nine years of such experience, one which no human wisdom could compass, no human power could achieve, that the very greatness of the result, when compared with the littleness of the beginning and the fearful process through which that result has been evolved, might save us, we should suppose, from the sin, as the prophet expresseth it, of "sacrificing unto our net and burning incense unto our drag." (Hab. i, 16.)
Yet we must not forget, that here, as in all the other works of God among men, means have been used; and by those means, with the blessing of God upon them, the result thus far has been attained. It would be as unwise and short-sighted to ignore the means as to ignore the agency which has operated through them; for in them we may see what it is that [6/7] God vouchsafes to bless as His chosen agency in the salvation of men; we may learn what work is best suited to set forth His glory and to accomplish His gracious purposes of mercy. As, without His strength and cooperation, we labor in vain, so to ascertain, in a particular case, the conditions upon which His assistance has been granted, is to learn how we may best do His work and secure His blessing. While, therefore, we render to Him, as is most justly due, all the praise and honor of a result which would have been naught without Him, while we abase ourselves in the dust with a profound sense of the imperfection and sinfulness of our highest labors, let us look, with humble and adoring gratitude, to the means through which He has vouchsafed to work;--so that the experience of the past may bring with it that most profitable lesson of all experience, the teaching of the path of wisdom and safety for the future.
I. I place first and foremost among the means of success by which this Parish has been raised, within the short period of nine years, from an infantine condition to one of comparative strength and stability, the system itself which has been pursued. Upon any other system, with the same or equal difficulties surrounding it, the same result would not have been attained. This, I think, will be manifest if you reflect [7/8] how necessary it was, amidst such difficulties, that men should cluster about a principle, and that a strong principle of union. This the Church system itself has presented. Without this, there would have been no gathering point. Men would have been scattered and dismayed by the sight of the obstacles before them, if they had not realized that their feet stood upon the sure Foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, of which Jesus Christ Himself is the Chief Corner Stone; if this had not been a rallying centre to them; and if they had not felt that, while standing there, they were safe. The centripetal force of this principle has steadily resisted all centrifugal influences, however violent. The principle itself has formed a bond of union which has only been strengthened and consolidated by the divergent pressure which it has sometimes had to bear; and so it will be to the end, if the principle itself be maintained. Look then, Beloved, to the system on which your Parish is based, the system which I described to you more particularly last Sunday, as your very life and hope. [See Appendix.] Without it, you are nothing. Without it, you would soon sink to the level of ordinary action; you would retain but a name to live; and, in the end, with the difficulties which you have to encounter, you would be scattered to the four winds, as separate units which have lost their principle of coherency. With it, and the faithful use of it, you have [8/9] before you, as in the past, a path of ever steady progress, a growth which will probably be more rapid with each new accretion of strength, multiplying, as all true growth does, in a compound ratio, and carrying you on towards a consummation the approach to which is like the way of the just described by the wise man, shining more and more unto the perfect day. (Prov. iv, 18.)
II. I cannot but think that another means of success, and one that has been too little noted in this respect among us, has been the good degree of attention which has been given to the poor. I fear that Christians generally do not estimate this source of blessing as they ought, and that it is very little calculated upon, as it should be, as a means to make a Parish grow. The passion rather is, the ruling desire sometimes, to have rich men among the Sons of God. And surely their souls are as precious as the souls of the poor, and they have as great, nay, if we rightly receive the words of the Saviour, they have greater obstacles in their way to Heaven. And, furthermore, it is as desirable, or even more desirable, in such a Parish as this, where so large a work of charity is attempted, to have among us a goodly number of those who are able to give of their abundance, (provided there be also, with the ability, a corresponding willingness of heart,) than in other Parishes which do not [9/10] undertake, to the same extent, the office, which, above all others, our Saviour bore on earth, of ministering to the poor and the afflicted. But with all this, and in the same line of reasoning with all this, we need to have the poor themselves among us, if we would attain the highest blessing which the promises of Christianity hold out to us. For, if there is a feature of our holy religion more fundamental and essential than any other in the practice of piety, it is that which prescribes a constant well-doing to the needy, and promises the highest blessings as the result. To the poor the Gospel is to be preached, or it does not do its appointed work. The sick, the orphan, the widow, the aged, are to be cared for, or the chief and most peculiar trait in the example of the Divine Founder of Christianity is not followed. The first principles of the Gospel are violated. Any other way is another Gospel, which the Saviour has not delivered to us, and which His Apostles did not preach; and however much it may have of seeming brilliancy and promise for a time, however much it may be followed nowadays, in the desire to recommend religion to the easy and luxurious and self-loving spirit of the age, it cannot, in the end, stand the test of His judgment who says, "As ye did it not unto these my brethren, ye did it not to me;" and, even on earth, it cannot have the real approbation and blessing of that compassionate [10/11] Redeemer from whose teaching and practice it is so widely alienated. If I shall say to you, Beloved, that because ye have, to some degree, not in proportion to your ability, but yet to some good degree, watered others, ye have been watered also yourselves; if I shall say, that because ye have been liberal, in some measure, to the poor and needy, your own souls have been made fat; if I shall say, that because ye have provided for them, the Lord has delivered you in the time of trouble; if I shall say, that your scattering of benefactions upon those who were ready to perish has been to your own increase; do I, in so saying, announce to you any more than the plain word of God? and must you not, therefore, in all fairness and truth, look to this agency as one among the mainly instrumental causes of your being now, as a Parish, in God's good providence, all that you gratefully recognize yourselves as being today, strong and healthful and hopeful, with no dark cloud of fearful portent in your sky, with no insurmountable obstacles in your way, with a path before you that has in it all of attraction and promise that the chequered course of our career on earth can ever be expected to have? Blessed is the man, blessed is the congregation of men, that disperseth abroad and giveth to the poor; its righteousness, that is, its right doing, remaineth forever, a sure and steadfast basis for its hopes; its horn shall be exalted with honor. Thus do, and ye, too, shall live.
 III. But I must not forget to mention, (indeed, the time and season would remind me, if I were in danger of forgetting,) another most potent agency in the hands of God, in carrying forward this Church to its present stage of advancement. The most consummate system would have been ineffectual, if it had not been intrusted to the working of one suited to its character and design. I cannot but think that, in the outset of your career, you were peculiarly favored by the superintending providence of Deity, in procuring the services of a man whose own training in theology and practical workmanship had been of a stamp which fitted him peculiarly for the work to be done here. There was an eminent adaptedness of the system to the man, and the man to the system; and the result has been, to a good degree, under God, the consequence of this mutual fitness. This I conceive to be his highest praise, that he was suited to his mission, and performed it well; and higher praise mortal man can hardly receive amidst the works of this our lower estate. How patient he was amidst the peculiar difficulties and the slow progress of a beginning; how persevering he was in the executing of a system which was as congenial to him as his own nature; how moderate he was under trial, and yet how unswerving from the strait and narrow way which had been marked out for him; how gentle and unresentful in oppositions, [12/13] and yet how persistent in the sustaining of principle; how sorely he was beset by extremes, and yet how exactly he kept the middle way between them; how tender and considerate he was to the poor; how truly pastoral, in the highest style of that office, to the sick and afflicted; how diligent he was in the performance of a work which, to less subdued and less devout minds, might have become a wearisome routine; how well, in fine, he executed a task which combined, at once, minuteness and variety, which required both the most patient practical plodding and the most fervent devotion to high and unearthly principles, many of you know far better than I can pretend to describe. My own acquaintance with him was brief and casual, and dates back to a period previous to his labors among you. But he has left in his work here, a memorial and a token on which the lineaments of his character are so clearly inscribed that one who runs may read.
And now let us turn, for a moment, to a review of the past nine years, that we may gather up, as it were, in the record of the main results of that period, the summary of the grounds of our gratitude and joy today. I find, by the Parish Register, that the number of Baptisms, from the beginning until now, has been 398, a fair congregation in itself; that the number of [13/14] Communicants has increased from 50 to 328, the present number, as exactly as I can ascertain it; that the number of Parishioners, at first about 100, has risen to be about 800, including only those whose names are on the Parish List; that the number Confirmed is 121, a much smaller number than would have appeared if it had not been hindered by the untoward events which have been the chief trial of your history. [In a free church the number of parishioners is not easily ascertained, since there is no private holding or hiring of seats. In the Church of the Advent, those only are counted as parishioners who express to the Pastor a wish to be so considered. But this does not comprise the whole number of regular worshippers.] The number of Marriages has been 88, and of Burials, 235. The Offerings of the Congregation have increased from $1000 for the first year, to $6000 for the last. This does not include Offerings for the Poor, which have risen from $64 for the first year, to $1000 for the last. The Offerings on Festivals alone have increased from $30 for the first year, to $1100 for the last.
These, I trust, are satisfactory marks of progress, and give just occasion for the selection, as a theme for the Day, of the words of the text, "What hath God wrought?" To Him be the praise without whose guiding hand and superintending care the workmen would have labored in vain. That you have come through such a fiery affliction as has befallen you; that you have been constantly advancing; that you have [14/15] reached your present stage of growth and strength;--if all this is not the work of God, I see not how we can ever trace effects to their causes, or surely recognize the hand of Deity in any work of man. Yes, my Brethren, it is all preeminently of Him; and the celebration of this Day will have failed to attain its highest and truest end, if it shall not awaken, amidst all the joyous emotions of the retrospect, a more deep and abiding gratitude to the Giver of our every good gift, a more settled and consoling assurance that the Lord of Hosts is with us, a more steady and entire devotedness to His service, a more hopeful and patient and self-forgetting trust in Him for the future.
When I turn from the contemplation of the past, to look along the line of the revelations of the time to come, I see before you a work of which all that has been hitherto accomplished may be regarded only as a fair beginning. Of a portion of this work I may be permitted, if the Lord will, to speak to you more at length this evening--of your budding and opening charities, of your works of beneficence to the aged, the widow and the orphan, which have hardly yet attained the dignity of a system, or the stability of a settled foundation. But of another portion of that work I may say a word now. [Allusion is here made to the first anniversary of the Guild of the Parish, which was instituted in May last, for the purpose of systematizing and extending the charities of the church.] I have not noted, [15/16] among the prominent events of the last nine years, the purchase of this place of worship, at the cost, with the alterations, of $26,000. [This sum was raised by donations, and, with many minor sums of the same character, is not included in the Offerings, which represent only what has been presented upon the Holy Table on Sundays and Holy Days.] It is now your own, as far as man can ever speak of any material thing as his, with the exception of a small sum, yet to be paid, to clear it of the remnant of an old mortgage. Is it not time to begin to look beyond it, to something more worthy of your zeal and your efforts? Whether here, on this spot, sacred, at least, by the uses and the associations of the past, or on another, more central and convenient, if such there be, is it not time to think that another Temple should arise, better suited to your worship, more becoming to your devotion, more acceptable, as a richer and nobler offering, to your God? I leave the thought upon your minds, confident that it will be as good seed sown in good ground, and that whatever of Christian energy and consecrated means are needed for the accomplishment of the work of the future, may be looked for in the promise and hope which spring from the actual achievement of the past.
Above all, let the future prove that whatever is needed to secure for ourselves a place in the Temple of the New Jerusalem, in the City which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God, is not lacking [16/17] in the service which we render to Him here; so that, when our earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, we may have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Cor. v, 1.) By the diligent use of the means of grace, by filling up in the future the deficiencies of the past, by renewed zeal proportioned to our shorter continuance here, working with our might what it is appointed for our hands to do, we may be ready, at length, for that Coming of our Lord which the Church recalls to our remembrance to-day, and with the contemplation of which we now enter upon a New Year of our parochial and our religious life. May it be such to us, Beloved, that the end of it, if, through God's mercy, we shall still be on earth, shall find us as much nearer to Heaven as we shall then be nearer to the termination of our mortal career!
THE passage in the sermon of the preceding Sunday, alluded to at page 8, was as follows:--
"Our system in this parish, if I may describe it in a word, is to set forth the Church in our Services, precisely as she is presented in her own Prayer Book. Our aim is, neither to fall short of, nor to go beyond, this authoritative standard, which is binding upon us all. If we have Daily Services, it is because the Church has made provision for them, as you may see in the Calendar and Tables at the head of the Prayer Book, and also in the arrangement of the Morning and Evening Service, whose very titles are 'The Order for Daily Morning Prayer,' 'The Order for Daily Evening Prayer,' and in the division of the Psalms into portions for every day, morning and evening. No one denies, or pretends otherwise than that the Prayer Book is arranged for public worship twice daily. We simply carry out this arrangement. We abide by the prescription of the Church, without overreaching or underacting.
If we inculcate the duty of Fasting on certain days, they are all days on which the Church expressly says that she 'requires such a measure of Abstinence as is more especially suited to extraordinary Acts and Exercises of Devotion.' We but follow her command, therefore, in enjoining them. [Notice is given, on Sundays, of the Friday and other Fasts, simply because the Rubric appoints it: "The Minister shall declare unto the People what Holy days, or Fasting-days, are in the week following to be observed."--(COMM. OFFICE.)] He who judges us harshly in this matter, judges not us, but the Church, to which he owes the same allegiance with ourselves.
So also of our observance of Festivals. What the Church has furnished for us, we execute. We do neither more nor less. There is no Holy Day kept here which has not a service expressly arranged for it in the Prayer Book.
 Our simple and unpretending Chancel arrangements are the best that our present place of worship admits of; and they are also those which have the highest authority that can be urged for any matter of this kind. They have the authority of the best usage known in the mother Church of England, and are the most nearly conformed to the order that prevails in her Cathedrals, which I suppose to be the highest model that can be presented to us.
In fine, we have nothing here, either in Church arrangement or in our public worship, which is not framed in strictest consistency with the best authority that we have. There is nothing that any sober-minded and candid Protestant need object to. There is nothing, I fully believe, that is not in full conformity with the laws and the most approved usage of our Church. If the idea has ever entered any man's head that we have stationed ourselves here as New Lights in Episcopacy, that we hope, or aim, to bring certain strange things to people's ears, that man has wholly mistaken the scope of our polity and design. We design only to represent our Church in her real character; and if anything can be shown among us inconsistent with such design, our avowed and uniformly maintained principle would lead us at once to discard or modify it, on its being shown. We are, then, neither High Churchmen nor Low Churchmen, if such terms are used with a party signification. We are merely, plainly, only, and wholly, Churchmen; and we avow that, while we desire no other epithet, no other is suitable for men who aim in all things to act strictly on the principle of representing the Church as she is.
The same policy prevails and rules with regard to the doctrines that are taught here. They are simply the doctrines of the Anglican Church, neither more nor less. They tend neither to Rome nor to Geneva. They are the doctrines of the Reformation,--the English Reformation, I mean; for I hold that there is an important difference between the English Reformation and the Continental Reformation. They are the doctrines which the great body of Anglican divines have ever maintained; and, farther back, they are the doctrines of the Primitive Church, to which it was the main design of the English Reformation to restore both doctrine and worship."