Project Canterbury

The Church and Its Apostolic Ministry
A Course of Lectures delivered in St. Mark's Church, Denver, in January, 1887.

By John Franklin Spalding

Milwaukee: The Young Churchman, 1887.

Lecture VII. Practical Advantages of the Apostolic Ministry.

WHATEVER is right is also expedient. The true and the useful generally coincide. In the search for truth questions of utility should not be allowed to embarrass us. If we look first for the advantageous we may fall short of the true. Our views of advantage may be low and narrow. What seems best under one set of circumstances may disappoint us under another. What seems beneficial in a lower sphere may in a higher be detrimental. We are to find first, therefore, what is true and right; then, if successful, we may be sure of reaching what is best. There can be no possible circumstances in which the true is not useful and the right expedient, from the proper point of view, and all things being duly considered.

We must not look exclusively to the question of success in attempting to decide upon the comparative merits of different Church organizations and forms of Ministry. What is success, in a right estimate? It is not to be hastily assumed that a Christian body is successful which seems to be, for the time being, best in its practical operations; which appears to extend itself most rapidly in a given [157/158] area; which is most largely instrumental in making converts. Buddhism was remarkably successful and Mohammedanism pre-eminently so, as religions, judged by such tests as these. In this way almost every Christian sect at some time and in some region or other, might have justified its existence and claimed the membership of Christians. Some sects that are now extinct were in some localities apparently and to the view of the world, in a high degree prosperous. Some which once flourished with remarkable vigor, are now on the decline. Some that are now attaining the height of their power and greatness may in a few generations live only in tradition. Where now are the Montanists, the Novatians, the Donatists, and other substantially orthodox bodies of the third and fourth centuries? Their careers were as short as they were brilliant-It is only the student of Church History that is able at this day to learn so much as their names. Yet at one time there were places in which the observer might have considered the chances for perpetuity of each of them in turn, far better than that of the Church from which they had separated. The same might have been thought once of some of the Anabaptist sects; the same, too, in England for a little time of Quakers and Independents. A citizen of New Hampshire sixty years ago might easily have believed the same of the Free-will Baptists. So at the same time in Boston would have been thought of the Unitarians; or in many parts of New England twenty years [158/159] later of Millerism or Second Adventism. Had it depended upon any or all of the sects of the first six centuries to preserve the Faith of Christ, that Faith, many centuries ago, would have been lost. Many of the modern sects have not shown themselves any more stable or permanent, or more conservative of the Faith which was at first and for a time held dear among their adherents.

To find the Church that is in all respects best, it will not do to look at one small locality and make that the center of the world. It will not do to consider only a limited period. It would be necessary, judging in this way, to study the whole history of Christianity in all ages, and of every Body professing a Church character, and institute a careful comparison of their merits. Only thus could you form a right judgment.

But the shorter, more just, more natural, more philosophical mode of inquiry is that we have followed. We have sought that which is true concerning the Church and the Ministry, as determined by Scripture and History. We have reached the conclusion formulated by our Anglican Reformers, who endeavored not to construct a new Church but to preserve and continue the old which was from the beginning, purged of corruptions and free from foreign usurped domination. The preface to the Ordinal ought to be committed to memory by all our people, and the truth of it verified by all our clergy, some of whom seem to be ignorant of the truth and doctrine it so clearly [159/160] states. "It is evident unto all men diligently reading Holy Scripture and Ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' times there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which offices were evermore held in such reverent estimation, that no man might presume to exercise any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same, and also by public prayer, with imposition of hands, were approved and admitted thereto by lawful authority. And therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in this Church, no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon in this Church, or suffered to execute any of the said functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereto according to the form hereafter following, or hath had Episcopal Consecration or Ordination."

We look on to "the Form hereafter following," and we find that in the Ordination of Deacons and of Priests, a sermon or exhortation is to declare "how necessary that Order," whether of Deacon or Priest, "is in the Church of Christ, and also how the people ought to esteem them in their office." The Collect asserts that Almighty God, by his Divine Providence, hath appointed divers orders of Ministers in His Church, and "did inspire His Apostles to choose into the order of Deacons the first martyr, St. [160/161] Stephen, with others." And that the person to be ordained is "called to the like Office and Administration." The Collect in the Ordination of Priests takes the same high view of that order of Ministry, as divinely appointed "by the Holy Spirit," "to the glory of God's Name and the Edification of His Church." And when the examination is made, the Veni Creator Spiritus sung, and prayer offered, "the Bishop with the Priests present shall lay their hands severally upon the head of every one that receiveth the order of Priesthood, the receivers humbly kneeling, and the Bishop saying: Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven, and whose sins thou dost retain they are retained. And be thou a faithful dispenser of the Word of God and of His Holy Sacraments. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen." Not less distinctly and solemnly does "the Form of Ordaining or Consecrating a Bishop" declare the divine institution of this office; for after our Lord Jesus Christ "had made perfect His Redemption by His death and was ascended into Heaven He made some Apostles," as well as other Ministers, "to the edifying and making perfect His Church." The doctrine is throughout assumed which is so fully expressed in the Office of Institution, that our Lord "purchased to Himself an universal Church" and did "promise to be with the Ministers of [161/162] Apostolic succession to the end of the world." This Ministry, then, in its three orders, is that which this Church requires as necessary. The Church, organized with such Ministry from the beginning and evermore continued, is best, and obligatory upon us, because divine. There can be no question that this is the Church's position. What is best depends upon what is divinely appointed. It is ours to do our work. Success is of God's grace and blessing. Failure can only come of our faithlessness. We should work as if there were no such thing as failure, for God will surely honor His own appointment. His instruments and agents doing His will, His grace will be effectual, and "His word shall prosper in the thing whereto he sends it." (Isa. lv, 11)

We know that the Church divinely constituted as Episcopal must be successful. For it was of this Church our Lord promised, "the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it," to which "the Lord added such as should be saved" (Acts ii, 57), and of which St. Paul speaks as "the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the Truth." Having proved that the Church of Christ was Episcopal from its commencement, we must infer that this form of polity is essential. It is not only important; it is necessary,--not, indeed, for the salvation of individual souls, but for the preservation of Christianity, of the Faith "whole, and undented," on which the Salvation of souls depends. Its expediency, its excellency, its manifold and great advantages, follow of consequence.

[163] And we may verify from History what we are led to expect from Prophecy. It was no other Church than this that extended itself with such almost incredible rapidity into every part of the earth, that entered with such faith and confidence upon her life and death struggle with Heathenism for the supremacy of the world, and through the power of Christ by the effectiveness of her Episcopal organization, was victorious; that in less than three centuries could plant her triumphant banners on the demolished fortresses of Pagan power, and turn the Temples of the gods into sanctuaries of the Most Highest; that could subdue to her sway the fierce barbarian conquerors of Southern Europe, and everywhere overcome heathenism and make Christianity the religion of civilization.

And who does not know that this is the Church of the noble army of martyrs and confessors; the Church which for many centuries before the rise of Romanism was the one Holy Church throughout the world, the Historical Church, Catholic and Apostolical.

What missions ever prospered like the missions of this Church? What better success could have been expected in the conversion and sanctification of souls? In what age has she not had her roll of Saints, to whom all Christians following have looked for example and inspiration? Sectarianism may have embraced multitudes of pious Christian men. But what sect has ever nurtured Sainthood in the universal Christian estimation? Compare à Kempis, [163/164] Jeremy Taylor, Bishop Wilson, Bishop Leighton, Keble with John Owen, Rutherford, Haldane, Doddridge, and no admirer of the latter can but see the difference.

This Church will not suffer in comparison with the Bodies that have divided themselves from her and from each other. In the recent sermon of the Rev. A. C. A. Hall on "Apostolical Succession," the challenge of 'an able and learned scholar, Dr. Gove, is quoted: "There is no organized and recognized Church which we can point to in any period of the Church's life and say 'that Church being unepiscopal, was accepted as the covenanted representative of Christ in its region.' Nay. No permanent national Church was ever founded or established, no race permanently converted to Christianity, except by the Church of the three orders. Historical operative Christianity is bound up with Episcopacy." If exceptions occur they will probably be found to be apparent only. Fr. Hall adds his own opinion, that "the condition and prospects of the Christian Religion in the United States at the close of a century of national life do not bid fair to make this country an exception to the rule" (p. 18). Until the Reformation, this being the only Church, to her belong all the successes or failures that fell to Christianity. This Church in England has been the bulwark of Church reform on the principles of true Catholicity. The martyrs of reformed as of early Christianity were all Episcopalians. Whatever may be said in praise of the zeal of Christians [164/165] of various names in spreading Christianity, and great praise is certainly due to all who have labored at home or abroad in the cause of Jesus Christ, the Ministers of this same historical Church in its various branches far surpass all others in extent, in labors, in actual results. The history of the Church of England is grand and glorious, compared with that of the various sects, of which there have been scores that, in their times, have claimed to be purer and more Scriptural, of which many are now extinct. The growth of the American Church since obtaining a complete organization a century since, is unparalleled and relatively increasing. It is wonderful to see how the Anglican communion is extending herself in America, Asia, Africa, Australia and the isles of the sea. It would clearly seem to have been devolved on her to fulfill the destinies of reformed Apostolic and Catholic Christianity. She is the Church, undoubtedly, of the Anglo-Saxon and English speaking race. No one would pretend that Roman Catholicism, which is doubtless in fact and in peculiar adaptation, the religion of the Latin races, can ever become the religion of English speaking peoples. It is alien to them; their genius rejects it. With still less plausibility could it be contended that any one of the several denominations could ever become universally dominant in England and all her Colonies, and in America. But the outpopulating and colonizing power of this race unquestionably places in its hands the destinies of the world and of civilization.

[166] The Church of this race is the Church of the future as of the past. The Church that shall prove itself the Church of English speaking peoples is destined to universal ascendancy.

It will be objected that the old Churches that have become grossly corrupt were Episcopal, and some that were Episcopal have ceased to be. This is doubtless true. But before it is brought as an objection against the Scriptural organization and Ministry, it must be proved that this was the cause of the corruption and extinction. Some of the seven Churches of Asia Minor had become corrupt. One of them had but a name to live and was dead, under the very eye of the Apostle St. John. Would you say that he was the cause of it? Would you attribute it to the fact that these Churches had each its Angel or Bishop whom the Lord held as Stars in His right hand? (Rev. i, 20.) Was it not rather from human sin and human faithlessness? Was is not in spite of a true organization and a valid Ministry, and the oversight of an Apostle?

"The Churches of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, have erred." (Article xix.) But they erred notwithstanding they were true Churches planted by Apostles. Their right foundation, their orthodoxy of doctrine preserved by their Apostolic Ministry, tended powerfully to retard the outworking of their errors. So also with Rome. Her errors grew up with her usurpations. They were enforced by the Papal pretensions. They could not have gained [166/167] such currency, had not the primitive equality of all the Bishops been first ignored: had not one Bishop usurped the rights and powers of others; and the strong Church of the great capital city of the West, long so honored for soundness of faith, and so powerful in protecting and aiding the weak, been able gradually, under the favoring circumstances of the times, to exalt the primacy into a supremacy and spread her novelties of belief and practice throughout the West. Episcopacy in its true primitive form, all Bishops being equal, might have rendered difficult or impossible the growth and progress of error.

But having proved Episcopacy to be the Apostolic government of the Church and in itself right and necessary, we would not even seem to rest its claims on its success. Its success does not make it right. Failure would not make it wrong. The success of the Apostolic and Primitive Church is the success of Episcopacy, but it is due solely to the power of Christ, by His Spirit animating the hearts and stirring the wills of His people and making them faithful and zealous in His cause. But inasmuch as the Church as founded, as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, the Church which has the authority of Christ; the Historical Church which has kept the Faith, to which the Christianity of all sects and Churches is due, is Episcopal, it must follow that Episcopacy has advantages, of which we may speak of the following:

[168] I. I mention, first, the assurance of Grace given in the Church as the Church of Christ and of His Apostles. There is no question that Divine Grace accompanies the Word by whomsoever preached. But if there be good grounds for the belief that the Church which is from the beginning and ever continuous in the world is Christ's own instrument for conveying the full results of his Redeeming Work, and that its Ministers are His, and Stewards-of the Mysteries of God, it is impossible that there should not be a high and peculiar blessing in attendance upon all the Church's ministrations. The Word is invested with a new import. Sacraments are exalted and made means of Grace in a sense before unsuspected. Jesus Christ is Himself surely with us in power as we are walking in the way of His appointment.

There are two senses in which Grace is given in the commission to any office of the Ministry. First, there is functional Grace, the gift of power to perform the functions of the office, to make the acts of the Minister Christ's own acts, as done by His appointment and according to His will. This is entirely distinguishable from the Sai ctify-ing Grace which is given through the appointed means of Grace to all, Ministers and people alike. A Priest may so minister as to convey the saving Grace of Christ, and receive no Grace into his own soul. His acts are valid, his ministrations effectual, though he himself be reprobate in heart and become a castaway at the last. But the true [168/169] Minister must so fulfill his sacred trust as to "both save himself and them that hear him." There is surely a great advantage in a Ministry, of the validity of which there was never a question. The benefit is incalculable of a Ministry of Apostolical succession, as though "Christ Himself did beseech you by us," a Ministry with whom is His promised Grace, a true ambassadorship for Jesus Christ, who is the active Minister in all the Church's Ministries. And it is a clear and most important testimony in favor of the claims of the Church to such a Ministry, that so many of the most intelligent of non-Episcopal Ministers have sought and are constantly seeking an ordination that confers an authority from Christ, of the possession of which they had felt good reason to be doubtful.

II. Again, there is a strength in the Church with its Apostolic Ministry, which greatly commends it.

1. A strong government is one in which there are different grades of office, a distribution of powers, a gradation of authority. A pure democracy would be essentially weak. The form of polity into which Puritanism outside the Church has developed, especially in New England, is independency. The individual congregation is in theory supreme and alone. If the theory beaded on, there can belittle power for defense or for aggression. There is no restraint upon the growth of error, and, except by the abandonment of the principle of independency, no missionary efficiency. Unitarianism grew up in the last century insensibly out of [169/170] the very bosom of New England orthodoxy. And the Unitarian congregations were as true to the principle of congregational polity, and as strictly within their rights, as were those who preserved the traditional Calvinism. And carrying out the same principles, Unitarian associations are found to-day that construct creeds in which there is no room for the name or thought of Almighty God. Their religion has degenerated into a Code of Ethics without the divine sanctions of morality. So also in missionary operations. Combination is requisite, which is inconsistent with the independent principle, and an Episcopacy in form is adopted, for leadership, and concentration of force, in a given field.

The largest and most successful of the Protestant bodies deliberately adopted an Episcopal form of government, for the strength and efficiency that would be given by a proper subordination of officers. Methodist Episcopacy is but Presbyterian, originating with a Presbyter of the Church. The Bishops are not considered a higher order. They are simply Presbyters with higher functions. The Episcopacy is a misnomer. But it is nevertheless a testimony, both in the fact of its adoption and the success that has attended it as a skillfully contrived arrangement of the advantages of Episcopal government.

While the Church readily adapts itself to circumstances, flourishing with equal vigor in Monarchies and in Republics: while its power is from above and not from [170/171] below, divine and not of human bestowment, yet it corresponds in its distribution of powers most nearly to such a government as that of the United States. It is strictly representative. Executive, legislative and judicial functions are kept distinct. In Diocesan and General Conventions or Councils, there are three separate orders, the Episcopate, the Clergy or their representatives, and representatives of the laity. Each has a check upon the others in legislation. Rash measures have little chance of being enacted into law. There is a true conservatism, which is indispensable to strength, stability and perpetuity.

2. The Church, because of its Apostolic Episcopacy, is strong in the power of concentrating its forces for the accomplishment of its purposes. It seldom recedes from a position once taken. There need be no retrogression. It holds what it gains. Its consciousness of power gives steady increase. Its progress may be sometimes slow, but it is not spasmodic nor fitful. It is generally uniform and sure. There is in the Church a splendid adaptation to aggressive Missionary work. All that is necessary is to bring out her forces, too often latent. The world has learned to have confidence in her principles and methods. Her system of work and teaching commends her anywhere, for she not only meets the deep religious needs of the people of all ages and classes, but the whole man in each, body, soul and spirit. Her teaching and training are not pursued in startling ways to attract those who are fond of [171/172] novelties, but are generally and in the long run the more effective.

3. If true to herself, the Episcopal Church is strong in the exercise of discipline. There is no Bishop, or Priest, or Deacon whom she cannot suspend or degrade and put it beyond his power to exercise Ministerial functions in any of her congregations. A suspended or degraded Minister cannot organize for himself a society in the Church. It is in vain that he attempt to excite the sympathy and win the favor of strangers in another Diocese. Throughout the Anglican Communion his career is ended. The sentence upon him stands, whatever the clamor against it.

4. Especially is the Church strong in the repression of heresy, though there may be times when this is not apparent. She may allow large latitude of opinion under the Creeds and outside of the limits of essential truth, of which the Creeds give the complete summary. She may be and ought to be slow in calling men heretics. But when she does speak, it is with an authority that may not be disobeyed.

5. But the strength of the Church in preserving the truth is not so much shown in the administration of godly discipline upon those who offend in word and doctrine, as by the silent influence of her Church life, which is rooted in the Apostolic age and comes down to us by an organic growth, with her ancient customs, her venerable rites and [172/173] ceremonies, her liturgic worship, her universal creeds, which constantly condemn and resist all hurtful innovation. It is a remarkable fact that there is no Episcopal Church in the world, however corrupt some Churches may have become in practice, which is not substantially orthodox, holding, as they all do, the Creeds of Catholic Christendom. Whatever unauthorized additions some of them may have made, the old Creeds remain. A true faith makes comparatively harmless, much error that would otherwise be fatal. Episcopacy has in all ages proved itself to be incompatible with any doctrine which does not give equal honor, glory and worship to Father, Son and Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Arianism was indeed Episcopal, but it soon ceased to be, because Christian Arians returned to Orthodoxy and Catholicity, and political Arians became worldlings. In contrast to the reformed Catholic Church, as in England and this country, with her "double witness" against Romanism on the one hand and ultra-Protestantism on the other, maintaining and defending the faith of the Apostles, and of the Fathers, you witness the various sects, drifting away from their landmarks, giving up or losing sight one after another of their distinctive principles, and many of them falling into cold Rationalism and indifference to distinctive Christian truth as they had once held it. This was so to a marked extent, in old England as in New, in the last [173/174] century. The same perversion strikes you in Geneva, where Calvin unwillingly abandoned the Episcopacy. And even the German Churches, with all they had preserved from the Catholic past, have been greatly wanting in the power to conserve, maintain and witness to the true faith of Jesus Christ.

It is impossible that a Church like ours, with the historic life, the Creeds, the Liturgy, the Book of Common Prayer, the body of divinity in her great doctors, the landmarks which time has given her, should become essentially heretical. If any of her Ministers fall into errors, they are convicted of it whenever they open their eyes and look about them. They are forced to condemn themselves in the most solemn manner out of their own mouths as often as they engage in the public worship. They will generally be brought to a better mind, or else quietly go out from among us, "to their own place."

A valid Ministry may cease to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified as the only Saviour of Sinners. Hence, there is no particular Church that may not fall. But a Church like ours cannot easily forget the source of her life, while worshipping in the consecrated language of her ancient and Catholic forms of devotion. The Episcopal Church inherits and rightly possesses all the Christian treasures of past ages. Chief among these are the Creeds and offices of her Prayer Book, so full of Christ, and of the very "marrow of true divinity." It is a source of strength beyond human power of estimation.

[175] 6. We have spoken of the power of the Church, Episcopally constituted, to resist and overcome error on the negative, rationalizing, ultra-Protestant side. She is equally so on the side of accretions to Catholic faith and practice. The popular feeling against Romanism is utterly worthless as a basis of controversy. The argument from its superstitions and abuses is worse than useless against a learned and practiced antagonist. Ultra-Protestantism has no ground on which to make a successful stand against Rome. The fact that that Church has a history going back to the Apostles' times, gives that corrupt communion an advantage from which she has gained many a triumph over the champions of Protestant Bodies that are confessedly recent, with no bond of union among themselves, divided from each other for reasons wholly outside the Faith of Christ, for things indifferent, non-essentials, with no Ministry of Apostolic succession, no history. Such bodies do not oppose any effectual barrier against Rome. She has witnessed their rise, their strength often wasted in fruitless conflicts with each other, the many changes, variations and vicissitudes of most of them, of many the decline and fall. She may fairly hope to stand when most of them are forgotten.

But against an intelligent Greek of the Russian or old Oriental Communions, an old Catholic, like Bishop Hertzog, and especially an Anglican or Anglo-American Catholic, representatives of Churches which are in their [175/176] Apostolic lineage as ancient as Rome, she has no such advantage. Their claims are as good as hers. They, too, are Apostolic and Catholic. Some of them may claim a greater antiquity. Some of them are reformed, and show a truer, purer Catholicity. The advantage is on their side, in so far as they are nearer the Early Church in their faith and practice'. The Anglican is the host possible position for defense, or assault. The great works against Romanism, its corruptions and arrogant pretensions, are unquestionably written by the great Divines of the Church of England. There is scarcely any work of this kind of permanent value written by any others. In the historical argument which is the strength of Rome, the ail vantage is all with us. We are able to stand on the famous challenge of Bishop Jewell, the most learned and one of the ablest of the English Reformers, and prove that every feature of doctrine and practice of modern Romanism is not only not taught, but is clearly condemned by the voice of the Church in her great Doctors and in her Councils of the first six centuries. The weapons of Rome are thus effectually turned against her. She is shown to be modern in all that is without the sanction of antiquity. Her corruptions are all innovations.

7. Summing up what may be said, the Church is strong because she is Christ's own Church, His own Institution "against which the Gates of Hell cannot prevail." Her strength is in Him. The power of His Spirit is the source [176/177] of all her life and efficiency. She may, indeed, at times and in some places fall very far short in the realization of her strength, and in the fulfillment of her Divine mission. Still we must judge of her from what Christ her Head and Founder constituted and made her to be. She is strong as being His Body, strong in her Corporate life, in her Sacramental system which gives oneness with Him, and enables her ever to hold Him forth, and to show His death, and to be participant of His resurrective life, making her, as Bishop Jeremy Taylor says, "the extension of His incarnation," His incarnate Body or Divine Humanity, and His representative in the world.

III. But doubtless there are some who will still allege that all forms of the Church are variable, to be determined by the environment, and judged by their results, and that what was at first an experiment gains by time a sufficient sanction, and a de facto Ministry becomes de jure. This may be all true so far as applicable to what is not essential, not belonging to the divine type and plan, not of divine and perpetual obligation; such as the Ministries of laymen, Sisterhoods, Deaconesses, Brotherhoods; all that belongs to business arrangement, and much in the sphere of public worship. But it has been shown not to be true in the fundamental orders of the Ministry. It is not true in relation to the Sacraments. The things that characterize the Church and make it what it is are not variable. The essential type of [177/178] the organization, all that is essential in it, must continue the same throughout all outward variations. We have given full credit to the zeal and efficiency of our brethren who are not with us and the success of their labors as members by their baptism of the Catholic Church, "the mystical body of Christ's faithful people." We are far from claiming that all that has been done in the 6ause of Christ, has been accomplished by Ministers Episcopally ordained. It is often the case that a layman devoting himself according to his privilege and duty to works of mercy on behalf of the bodies and the souls of men, accomplishes more than many well meaning but inefficient clergymen. So, too, of a book, no matter by whom written, it may be the means of greater good to a greater number than the personal labors of a lifetime, of one of the ablest and most devoted of Christian Ministers. God always honors the preaching of His truth by whomsoever done. "The brethren" of the Apostolic Church could find ways of "preaching the word" that were legitimate and successful. In the primitive times Churches were sometimes founded by laymen and were afterwards fully organized with the authoritative Ministry. I would honor all who feel themselves called to work for Christ and His cause, by whatsoever name they are called. But, so far as concerns those whom we are to account of as "the Ministers of Christ and Stewards of the Mysteries of God" (1 Cor. iv, 1) we must still in all charity held it as [178/179] a law, that the Ministry is involved in the Priesthood and other offices of Jesus Christ, and is "ordained for men in things pertaining to God;" and that "no man taketh this honor unto himself but he that is called of God as was Aaron" (Heb. v, 1,4), and "that no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest or Deacon in this Church," except under the conditions of our Ordinal. No others can "preach in our pulpits;" no others can Minister to our people. Surely we are not to be blamed for adhering conscientiously to a law which has prevailed from the beginning. We can not surely be called upon to change our Canons at the instance of every new denomination that arises. The precedents of all past ages are not to be lightly set aside to suit the views of those who ignore them. It were strange, indeed, if we were required to welcome the ministrations of those of whose faith we must be entirely ignorant, and of the correctness of whose teaching we could have no possible security; who might undertake to instruct us in political and social science, or modern schemes of benevolence, the peculiar machinery of religious excitements, or any type or degree of heresy. They who teach for us must be amenable to us; they must be subject to our authority. And it is stranger still that we should be expected to condemn, as on the principles we hold as fundamental we should regard ourselves as condemning by implication, the Divine Founder of the Church's Ministry, the Apostles who established [179/180] it and the Christian centuries that have adhered to it as essential to the Church's integrity. There are some in the Church who in theory, if not in practice, deny these principles. But of them this must be said: Loyalty to the Church, to her essential constitution, is imperatively demanded in these times. If all good citizens ought to despise disloyalty, which carried out into act, is treason to the government, surely a like feeling of reprobation and of horror must rise in the hearts of Christian men in view of teaching and action in reference to the Church, and its government and authority, on the part of her subjects and sworn defenders, which is of the same character and in a higher sphere. We prove our position to be right. Our argument never has been answered. We stand before the world justified by Scripture and History. It is only the shallowest of a shallow age that could fault us for a course of conduct with reference to others, that is the necessary result of a doctrine that is fundamental in Churchmanship, and of a position we know to be secure, and that has over and over again proved itself to be impregnable against all assailants. Those at least who are of us, must be with us, in maintaining our position and our principles.

But if others outside the Apostolic Church may do so much good, what, after all, is the practical advantage of maintaining so strenuously the Ministry of Apostolic succession? We have seen how necessary this Ministry has ever proved itself to be in the perpetuation of the Catholic [180/181] Creeds, in which are comprehended the essential facts and doctrines of Christianity. We believe it to be necessary also for like reasons, both for Ministers and people, for the right exercise of the office and the due profiting therefrom.

Every Minister Episcopally ordained is justified in taking, and must, if true to his convictions, take this position. I am as certain as a man can be of anything resting on Scriptural, historical and moral grounds, that I am a Minister of Jesus Christ. I have the utmost assurance that I was called, tried, examined and admitted to the Ministry by lawful authority. I was "called of God as was Aaron" by a divine prompting and a valid ordination, or I would not dare to take upon myself this office and administration. I am therefore Christ's Ambassador. I am clothed with His authority. It is in His Name that I speak and act officially. "My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me.'" It is Christ's message to the people "whether they will hear or whether they will forbear" (Ezek. ii, 7). To refuse it is a rejection of Christ. I am empowered to give the Sacramental seals of regenerating and sanctifying grace. When I receive the infant child into the Christian Covenant it is Christ Who will make the Sacrament a regeneration, the birth from above of water and the Spirit. (St. John iii, 5.) It is Christ Who takes the child into His arms, lays His hands upon it and blesses it and causes it to be born into His kingdom. When I give to worthy receivers [181/182] the consecrated elements of the Holy Supper, it is Christ Who is present, and makes them His Body and Blood, which is meat indeed and drink indeed, and which confers eternal life. It is Christ Who, by me rightly exercising the authority He gives me, remits and retains sins. I hold the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven! What a fearful responsibility! Who is sufficient for these things? I may shrink from it as too awful for mortal man. My own sinfulness, weakness, inefficiency, are all before me. But I know that He Who sends will uphold me. It is His commission I bear. I am, therefore, immeasurably strengthened. I can rise above my natural self. Through Christ strengthening me I can do all things. Naturally timid, I can be "bold in our God to speak the Gospel of God with much contention." (Thes. ii, 2.) I magnify mine office. I dare not be a man-pleaser. I dare not pander to the popular tastes and opinions. I must teach and exemplify the Faith as delivered once for all in the beginning, as the Church hath received it, as it has been believed "always, everywhere and by all." I must preach the Word, be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine and make full proof of my Ministry, however many there be who will not endure sound doctrine, who have itching ears, and after their own lusts, heap to themselves teachers, and who turn their ears from the truth and are turned to fables. (1 Tim. iv, 2, 3, 4.) This is the position of every man who, by an ordination, the [182/183] validity of which is undoubted, is a Minister of Jesus Christ. Is it not an advantage to be able to assume it? Is not the best success probable? Are not the highest results to be expected? I know that there are non-Episcopal Ministers who assume it. But I believe it is on the ground of a conviction that they have received the Ministry in the line of a succession reaching back to the Apostles, coming indeed since the sixteenth century through Presbyters, but in their estimation none the less validly conferred upon them. And who can doubt that the Ministry of such is the more effective for this conviction?

There are two classes of Ministers: those who preach Christ and those who preach about Him; those who preach the Faith, and those who preach opinions about the Faith; those who stand boldly for Christ and His truth according to Holy Scripture and the Faith of the universal Church, not according to this man or that, and those who look for themes that may be acceptable, to whom human authority is controlling, and thinkings and opinions are instead of the absolute Truth which, in order to be saving, must be received in the faith of the inmost heart and mind. It is believed that the difference largely depends upon whether the source of authority to minister in holy things is regarded as from above or from below, from Christ Himself or from the congregation.

And the people can profit in the highest and best sense from a Ministry conscious of its Divine credentials. It is [183/184] promotive of reverence for God and for things Sacred, the necessary condition of a well proportioned, symmetrically developed Christian character, and the want of which is one of the crying sins of this country. They listen to Christ's Ambassador, sent to them, placed over them in the Lord. He is solemnized with the thought that he exercises an office most honorable and weighty, and that eternal consequences depend upon his fidelity to his trust. He is grave in demeanor, reverent in attitude, sound in speech that may not be condemned. There is no levity, no trifling about him. Fanciful theories, private opinions, sensational topics, devices to attract the public ear, find no place with him. The people must catch something of his spirit. Reverence is contagious. Low and common thoughts in God's House are banished. The truth comes home as the truth of God. People dare not criticise it in a profane spirit. They lay it to heart and feel it their duty to act upon it. The word is mixed with faith in the hearers. Holiness is promoted. God's Name is hallowed and His Kingdom advanced.

And such a Ministry will command the respect and confidence necessary to obedience to the injunction: "Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves >: (Heb. xiii, 17). The clergy will be honored as men generally are, according to the degree in which they respect themselves, and their sense of the greatness of their office. If they act as becomes true Ministers of Christ, no good [184/185] man can speak lightly of them or their office and work. Whether they instruct, entreat, reprove, or rebuke, it will be taken in good part; it will be with seeming thankfulness, even though it be not heeded.

Congregations under such a'Ministry will come to have a deep sense of the sacredness of the things of God and of the honor of His Name. His authority will be recognized. His servants will be trusted, obeyed and loved. A spirit of obedience will be promoted. Insubordination in families and in the State will be less frequent. Children will be practically taught the fifth Commandment, and will show the fruits of a training in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Such will be the natural fruits of a Ministry that is conscious of its legitimacy. While a Ministry that regards itself as of or from men will be accordingly regarded. It will be that of mere voluntary teachers. Without the proper supports of authority, all reverence, confidence and obedience will ultimately depart.

May the Lord of the harvest send laborers, such as He needs, into His harvest!

O, Almighty God, Who hast built Thy Church on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the head Corner Stone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of Spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy Temple acceptable unto Thee; Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Project Canterbury