DAVID HOYT, NO. 6, STATE STREET.
This Discourse, which was prepared simply for delivery from the pulpit, is now, by the generosity of members of the Vestry and others, put into this form for gratuitous distribution among that portion of St. Luke's Parish for whose especial benefit it was designed; and it is hereby affectionately inscribed by the author to those numerous members of his flock who were baptized and brought up in "the United Church of England and Ireland."
The author is fully conscious that he has by no means done justice to the important subject upon which he has written; but he humbly trusts that his endeavor to make the stranger feel that he has a welcome home in the Church, may not be entirely without success.
"One law shall be to him that is home-born, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you."--Exodus xii. 49.
This was the ancient provision with reference to the rite of Circumcision. None were to he permitted to keep the Passover unless they had been circumcised. The divine requirement was, "All the house of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let them come near and keep it; and he shall be as one born in the land; for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. One law shall be to him that is home-born, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you." That is, there was to be no distinction between strangers and those born in the land, provided there had been on the part of the strangers a reception of the ordinance by which they were admitted into the Church of God, and to all the privileges of his chosen people.
I do not propose, however, to consider this subject in the present discourse; but simply to make use of the text as introductory to some remarks which seem to me to be called for by the circumstances in which, as a parish, we are placed. While it is true that most of the congregations in this city are composed in part of strangers that sojourn among us, who have had their birth and early training in foreign lands, it is also true that in no Protestant congregation in this community is there so large a proportion of strangers and foreigners as in our own. About one half of this parish is made up of individuals who were born and brought up in England and Ireland and the Canadian [3/4] Provinces, or who are the children of such; and my desire at the present time is to address such individuals upon subjects which concern our common salvation. [The whole number of families in the parish is more than three hundred and twenty, and of these more than one hundred and fifty are English and Irish; the English numbering forty or fifty families, and the Irish more than one hundred.]
Although this portion of the congregation must have already learned, from their own experience, that, so far as the privilges of the Church are concerned, there is one law to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among us, yet I feel that it will not be amiss to endeavor to impress upon them a deeper conviction of their full admission to these privileges, as well as a more lively sense of their own duties and responsibilities.
The Church of England is the Mother Church of our own. When the United States were Colonies of Great Britain, ministers of that Church were sent to this country as Missionaries, and the Bishop of London was their nominal overseer. In course of time, however, the people of this country became independent, and established a separate government for themselves; and soon after that important event it was decided that the American Episcopal Church should have Bishops of its own to preside over it. Individuals were accordingly selected by the Church here, and sent to the mother country for Episcopal consecration and in this way the Church here became fully organized, and adopted the name of "the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America."
In due time the Prayer Book was revised; and having been adapted to the new civil relations of the country, and otherwise modified, it was set forth in the year of our Lord 1789 as the established Liturgy of this Church. It is stated in the Preface to this Liturgy that "when in the course of Divine Providence, these American States became independent with respect to Civil Government, their Ecclesiastical Independence was necessarily included; and the different religious denominations of Christians in these States were left at full and equal liberty to model and organize their respective Churches, and forms of worship and discipline, in such manner as they might judge most convenient for their future prosperity; consistently with the Constitution and laws of their country."
"The attention of this Church was, in the first place, drawn [4/5] to those alterations in the Liturgy which became necessary in the prayers for our Civil Rulers, in consequence of the Revolution. And the principal care herein was to make them conformable to what ought to be the proper end of all such prayers, namely, that "Rulers may have grace, wisdom, and understanding to execute justice, and to maintain truth;" and that the people "may lead quiet and peaceable lives, in all godliness and honesty." But while these alterations were in review before the Convention, they could not but, with gratitude to God, embrace the happy occasion which was offered to them (uninfluenced and unrestrained by any worldly authority whatsoever) to take a further review of the Public Service, and to establish such other alterations and amendments therein as might be deemed expedient."
It is also stated that "this Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship; or further than local circumstances require."
It was with feelings and under circumstances like these that the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States became a distinct and independent branch of the Church of Christ; and, in common with other ecclesiastical bodies which had been organized here, entered upon a new and untried course. Wholly disconnected from the government of the country, the various religious denominations were to find their support in the free contributions of the people, all being equally tolerated, and no man being obliged to sustain any religious system which should be contrary to the dictates of his own conscience.
Thus separated from all temporal powers, and adopting a Constitution and a code of Laws in strict accordance with a Republican form of government, our Church went forward in its proper work; audits increase and prosperity have been such as to call for devout thanksgiving to that Almighty Being whose providence has watched over it, and blessed it above what could have been asked or expected.
And it is into this Church, truly Episcopal, truly Protestant, and truly Primitive, that members of the "United Church of [5/6] England and Ireland are introduced when they laud upon these shores. It is a Church differing in no important respect from their own, except in its relations to the Civil Powers; and to which, therefore, they are as welcome as her own home-born children.
Such being the case, it is to be deeply regretted that any who have been baptized and trained in the Mother Church should become forgetful of their Christian duties when they leave their native land, and seek a home among strangers. That many are thus forgetful, or, at least, that many actually neglect their Christian duties after bidding farewell to the scenes of their childhood and the sepulchres of their fathers, is too evident to all who have given any attention to the subject.
I do not mean to intimate that all who are home-born are fully alive to a sense of their Christian duties. This is by no means true. But I have been led, by my own observation, to the conclusion, that strangers who sojourn among us are peculiarly exposed to the danger of forsaking the good and the right way, and of departing from the holy commandment delivered unto them. The stranger comes here from the land of his birth, and at once finds himself in scenes and circumstances which to him are new and peculiar. He is far away from the home of his early years, and perhaps from the friends whom he has been accustomed to love and to cherish. The village church, where he used to worship, and where his fathers worshipped for long generations before him, no more calls him to its familiar courts. The pastor whom he had learned to respect and reverence may be still holding forth the Word of Life; but the familiar tones of that pastor's voice no longer fall upon his ears, telling him of his duties, and warning him of his dangers. He is a stranger in a strange land. The wide ocean separates him from the scenes and associations of his childhood and of his riper years, and he feels at times that no man careth for his soul.
Under such circumstances, not a few, thanks be to God! seek for comfort and peace in a Church which they are rejoiced to welcome as a familiar friend, and which is rejoiced to welcome them usher adopted children. They find in her services those [6/7] solemn strains of prayer and praise which at the same time remind them of home, and make them feel at home; and in those services, so grateful to their hearts, and so full of the tenderest associations, they seek and find their chief happiness and consolation.
But not a few others, less inclined to Christian duty, fall into the neglect of which I have spoken, and soon learn to become careless and indifferent concerning those solemn realities which they have been taught to consider as supremely important and momentous. They seldom, if ever, come to the house of God. They neglect the religious training of their children; and, in some instances, they seem to become almost wholly regardless of their spiritual interests. This is true of some who, when at home, were regular and constant in their attendance upon public worship, and exemplary in religious duties generally; and I know not what it can be that causes such a sad falling away when they step upon these shores, unless' it be the absence of those restraints to which they have been accustomed at home, and which cannot at once be brought to bear upon them in the land of their adoption.
It is too often the case that emigrants from abroad fail to report themselves to the ministers of our Church when they arrive at the place of their intended settlement; and in this way many are lost to the Church altogether. Persons intending to emigrate to this country, should procure letters or certificates from their ministers before leaving home, and take an early opportunity of delivering them after their arrival here. Many do adopt this course, and thus become introduced to those here whose duty it is to watch over them with pastoral solicitude and care. Many others, however, neglect to do this, and remain here months and years, and perhaps permanently, without seeking for those who would gladly seek for them, but who know not where to find them. Those who are in some good degree mindful of their Christian duties might be instrumental of much good if they would invite their fellow-countrymen to come with them to the house of God, and induce them to make themselves known to the ministers of our Church.
 It would probably be an extravagant estimate to say that as many members of the English Church as are now enrolled in the three Episcopal parishes in this city may be found here who have no pastoral care, and enjoy none of the public means of grace; but it is safe to say that there are many individuals scattered throughout this community, whose childhood and youth were watched over by pastors of the Mother Church; but who are now, not only strangers sojourning among us, but strangers to the temple of the Lord, and to those here who in our own Church are appointed to minister in holy things. It would seem that much might be done towards the mitigation and removal of this evil, if those who now hear me, and who are accustomed to worship in this sanctuary, could only be induced to speak to their brethren on the subject, and urge them to enter again the courts of the Lord, and unite in his holy service. I would earnestly commend this suggestion to the consideration of those who are now present, and request them to inform me, or some other minister of our Church, of the names and residences of such of their acquaintances from abroad as are living here in the habitual neglect of their most sacred duties.
There is another class of members of the Church of England of whom I would speak, some of whom may be here on this occasion. I refer to those who are accustomed to bring their children to Baptism, and to call upon the ministers of our Church for the performance of other pastoral duties, but who are seldom seen in our congregations on the Lord's day. They may be present on funeral occasions, when their friends and acquaintances are borne "to the place appointed for all living;" but for the most part they absent themselves from the house of God, and seem to live unmindful of the instructions received at home, and regardless of those duties to which they are most solemnly bound by the requirements of God's word, and by the vows of their Baptism. Most of these persons have received the rite of Confirmation, in which they made the positive promise that they would keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of their life. And yet are not many of them living without God and without hope in the world? Are they not making [8/9] their Baptism of none effect by neglecting to fulfil their part of the covenant? Are they not storing up for themselves an aggravated condemnation by setting at nought, not only the requirements of the Most High, but also their own most solemn vows and promises? O that such persons might realize their danger while living in such careless neglect of their duty, and awake to a sense of the obligations which rest upon them! The doors of the sanctuary are open for their reception. One law is to them and to those who are home-born. Free access is offered them to all the privileges of the Church, and they are bid welcome to the courts of the Lord. Will they not avail themselves of the privileges thus extended to them, and by worshiping God on earth seek to be prepared for his presence and glory in heaven?
I have just alluded to the fact that many of those who are living in the neglect of the public worship of God, and of other Christian duties, have in their own persons assumed the solemn vows and promises which are first made in Baptism, and renewed or ratified in Confirmation. This is true of most of those who remained at home during their childhood and early youth; for in England and Ireland, and in the British Provinces, Confirmation is usually received at a certain age; and nearly all of those who emigrated to this country after having passed that age, have taken upon themselves all the obligations of the Christian covenant by a reception of that ancient and primitive rite.
Such being the case, I would seriously inquire if there are not many sons and daughters of the Church of England, now within the limits of this city and of this parish, who are living in the habitual violation of the vows of God which are upon them. How many of you, beloved, are daily mindful of your Christian duties? Flow many of you are living with reference to that eternity which is before you, and to that judgment-bar at which you must stand to give account of the deeds done here in the body? How many of you are accustomed to show forth your Lord's death at his holy table? How many of you make it a matter of principle to be regular and constant in you [9/10] attendance upon divine service; and how many of you are in the habit of praying in your families, and in secret devotion?
These inquiries are affectionately proposed to you for the purpose of directing your attention to those duties which are incumbent upon you, and which you cannot neglect without great sin in the sight of God. They are not proposed to you from a belief that none others in the congregation stand in need of them; but because I am particularly addressing you on this occasion, and because I am well aware that many of you need to be reminded of the solemn vows which rest upon you. Of one duty, at least, you are generally more mindful than those who are home-born, and that is the Baptism of your children; and then there is your sympathy for the sick, and your respect for the dead, which are worthy of all commendation and praise. [While I would pay a deserved tribute to the Irish for their sympathy with their sick countrymen, and their respect for the dead, I must be allowed to say that the custom which they (both Protestants and Romanists) have brought to this country, of having what are called "wakes," is one that ought not to be continued; especially as drinking is so generally considered to be an essential part of it. Some, I am happy to say, do disapprove of this practice.] But I fear that many of you do not regard in their true light the vows and promises of your own Baptism, and that you are sinfully negligent of that dying command of your Divine Redeemer, "Do this in remembrance of me." I fear that many of you, as well as many others in the congregation, are not fully aware of the spirituality of true religion; and that you are depending too much upon your Baptism and Confirmation, when you ought to be depending simply on the Lord Jesus Christ for pardon and salvation. Our Church and the Church of England, unitedly declare that Baptism is "a sign of regeneration, or new birth;" and it is very plain that we may all have the sign without the thing signified. You may, therefore, be depending upon your Baptism as having made you Christians, when at the same time you are neither dead unto sin nor alive unto righteousness. In the Catechism which is familiar to most if not all of you, you are taught, indeed, that the state to which you were introduced by your Baptism is a "state of salvation." But it is called "a state of salvation", because by Baptism you were admitted [10/11] to the privileges of that covenant of grace by which salvation is given to mankind. It is through the merits of Christ alone that you can have any title to God's mercy; and this title is secured to you individually by a spiritual union with Christ through a true and lively faith. Baptism makes you outwardly members of his body, the Church, and admits you to the high privileges of such a relation. But after having sinned and come short of the glory of God, you can become members of Christ, in the highest and truest sense, only by a living faith wrought in the heart by the Holy Ghost.
It is very evident that "many who are said to be baptized into Christ, have not the spirit of Christ, and are none of his; as many were said to be baptized into Moses at the Red Sea, who had not the spirit of Moses, though they followed him with the Church through the wilderness; for all is not Israel which is called Israel. Such are only baptized with water into the visible Church, not with the Spirit into Christ himself. They are as the dead branches of a tree or vine. They may have been grafted into Christ's Church by Baptism that they might grow up into him; but they are as the grafts of a tree or vine, which, though inserted into a stock or limb, do not unite "so as to draw nourishment from it, and therefore perish." [For the above quotation, and some preceding suggestions, the writer is indebted to an admirable little work recently put forth by the Bishop of Virginia, entitled, "Explanation of the Church Catechism."]
Let these things be kept in mind by every one who has been baptized into, the Church of Christ, either in infancy or in riper years; for while they will allow you to take all due comfort to yourselves from the fact that you have thus been brought into the visible fold of the Redeemer, and admitted to the high privileges of that sacred relation, they will serve to keep you from depending upon your Baptism, or any external connections, and point you to CHRIST ALONE as the ground of justification and of acceptance with God. His is the only name given under heaven among men whereby we can be saved; and in order to be united truly and savingly to him, we must have a principle of faith in the heart, evinced and certified by an outward life of [11/12] obedience. True religion is seated in the inmost recesses of the soul; and nothing that is merely mechanical or external can atone for the want of that which is inward and experimental. We may be outwardly and visibly in the Church, and yet not he truly and spiritually in Christ. We may have been baptized and confirmed, and yet be in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity, having no part nor lot in the spiritual blessings of the Gospel of Christ. It is with the heart that man believeth unto righteousness, while with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
I feel it to be important to offer remarks like these, because it is so natural and common for us all to rest satisfied with outward acts and relations, while sadly deficient in those inward experiences and spiritual relations by which alone we can become Christians in the highest sense, and without which no visible rite or ecclesiastical connection can avail us in the sight of him who seeth the heart.
Let then all those whom I am now addressing take good heed to themselves lest they rest upon some foundation other than that which has been laid in Sion, and of which Jesus Christ himself is the chief Corner Stone. Nothing can afford you a shelter from the displeasure of a just and holy God but the merits and righteousness of that Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world. O remember this great truth, and act in accordance with it. Live the life which you live in the flesh by faith in the Son of God, and prove that you love him and trust in him by keeping his commandments. Avoid all appearance of evil. Shun intemperance and profanity, and every vicious habit, and teach your children to do the same, bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. [Drunkenness is one of the greatest evils that now curse human society; and I am pained to know that this sin is committed by some in the parish to whom this sermon is addressed. I regret also that some are engaged in selling intoxicating liquors to their fellow-men. Most of the poverty that exists in the community may be traced to Intemperance as its cause. The most happy and prosperous families are those that are free from this vice. Let all remember that no drunkard can enter into the kingdom of God.] See that your children be taught, so soon as they are able to learn, what a solemn vow, [12/13] promise, and profession have been made for them at their Baptism, and tell them of that precious Saviour into whose Church they have been brought by that Sacrament, and who once took up little children in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them. Be particularly watchful over those whom God has entrusted to your care and keeping, and train them up for him and his service. See that those of suitable age are in the Sunday School, and that they are constant and punctual in their attendance. [The children of the Parish are Catechised by the Rector "openly in the Church" on the first Sunday of every month in-the afternoon. Our Church requires parents and others who have the care of children to see that those under their charge attend upon such instructions.] Bring them with you when you come here to worship, and teach them to reverence God's holy day. Show them by your own example that you are determined to walk before God in holiness and righteousness all the days of your life, and to seek for glory, honor, and immortality. You will thus be taking the surest course to have yourselves and your children honored and respected in society, and to lay up for yourselves and for them a treasure in heaven which is incorruptible, undefiled and that fadeth not away.
I would now add, in conclusion, that my object at this time will be gained if those to whom my remarks have been particularly addressed are made more mindful of their Christian duties, and if others by their means are induced to a similar course. Some of the members of the Mother Church are among the most constant and exemplary in their attendance here, and in all holy duties; but, as I have before intimated, there are too many who only come when their children are baptized, or when some friend or acquaintance is brought here on the way to the cold and silent grave. I would that these last might be aroused to a sense of their duty in this matter; and that all this portion of the parish might come and throng the sanctuary so that there should not be room enough to receive them. Those who are home-born will ever welcome you as brethren of the same household of faith with themselves, and rejoice to have you unite with them in those prayers and praises which are so dear to us all. And let me here suggest to you the strong desire that [13/14] I have that you should all join audibly in the responses of the service. Let every one have a Prayer Book, and make a devout use of it. And let such as are unable to furnish themselves in this respect, intimate the fact to their pastor, and they will be most cheerfully supplied. Let no family be destitute of the Bible or Prayer Book: and let none hesitate to make known their destitution, if they are among the poor in this world's goods. The blessed Gospel is for the poor; and I am sure that I only express the feelings of this whole congregation when I say that no poor family in the parish need remain destitute of those means of grace which are to be found in the Word of God, in our Book of Prayer, or in the services of the sanctuary. We would say to the poorest amongst us, Come, for all things are ready. Come, without money and without price, and enjoy with us the privileges of God's house, and the blessings of his free salvation. One law shall be to us and to you, and we will rejoice together in the precious Gospel of a common Redeemer.
May God add his blessing to what has now been said to you, and then it will not be in vain that I have thus addressed you. Some of you are indeed strangers amongst us, having but recently landed upon our shores. Some of you have sojourned here for years, and by prudence, industry, and sobriety, accumulated sufficient to render your families comfortable and happy in their temporal circumstances. Others may have been disappointed in their expectations, not finding here that ease and abundance which they fondly anticipated. But, beloved, whatever your worldly circumstances may be, now, or in time to come, you may have one unfailing source of comfort and happiness in this far-off land: the God of your fathers is here, and the CHURCH of your fathers is here. Here, too, you may have secured to you civil and social rights and privileges which you could not so freely enjoy in the land of your birth. Here you may sit under your own vine and fig-tree, with none to molest or make you afraid. Here you are under the protection of equal laws, and in the enjoyment of the rights of freemen. May God bless you in your sojourn here; and at last receive you into that kingdom which is not of this world, where you shall forever enjoy that glorious liberty wherewith Christ makes his people free!
But for want of time, the author would have noticed more at length the important subject of Infant Baptism. He feels that those to whom the Sermon is addressed, as well as others, need to be reminded of the much neglected duty of prayerful preparation before presenting children for the reception of Baptism. Many seem to look upon the Baptism of a child simply as a compliance with a time-honored custom, or as a proper mode of giving a name; and if the names of their children are but duly recorded in the Parish Register, they appear to feel satisfied. This is an exceedingly low and inadequate view of so solemn a transaction. The Baptism of children should be preceded, attended, and followed by earnest prayer on the part of parents, and they should look upon it as the commencement of a faithful Christian training. We are not to suppose that the chief benefit of Baptism is realized at the very time of its administration; but we are to consider that our children are thereby introduced into the Church of Christ, to be trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Those parents who bring their children to this sacred ordinance, and then neglect their religious education, are guilty of great inconsistency and sin. The obligation to train up children in the way they should go exists in all cases, whether it is acknowledged or not; so that no parent can escape the responsibility by neglecting the Baptism of his children. God made him a SPONSOR by making him a parent. But those who have their children baptized actually acknowledge their duty to train them for heaven, and virtually promise to perform it. They are peculiarly bound to see that their children are "virtuously brought up to lead a godly and a Christian life."
It may here be added that proper care should be taken by parents in the selection of sponsors. As I have intimated, parents are natural sponsors; and they cannot throw off their own responsibility by procuring others to stand for their children. But as for good reasons our Church makes provision for other sponsors than parents, let them be selected with care. Let those be preferred who are living in the daily performance of their own baptismal promises by a godly walk and conversation. And let sponsors themselves undertake their solemn office in the fear of God.
I would embrace this opportunity to allude to another subject which I would gladly have referred to more particularly in the Sermon. I find that many members of the English Church whose names are on the list of Communicants in this parish are very seldom at the Lord's table. Some of them, I fear, have neglected this solemn duty for a long time; and I would now earnestly call upon them to consider the importance of attending to it regularly and faithfully. [15/16] Every month they are invited to show forth their Lord's death in this ordinance of his own appointment; and their Pastor would rejoice to welcome them, as well as those who are home-born, to this sacred feast whenever it is spread in the Lord's house. But let "all persons diligently try and examine themselves, before they presume to eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For as the benefit is great, if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy sacrament; so is the danger great, if we receive the same unworthily. Judge therefore yourselves, brethren, that ye be not judged of the Lord; repent ye truly for your sins past; have a lively and steadfast faith in Christ our Saviour; amend your lives, and be in perfect charity with all men: so shall ye be meet partakers of those holy mysteries."